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UC win came with some missing parts

Coaches are always pleased with a win, but the University of Charleston's Pat Kirkland was especially excited aftere Saturday's triumph at Concord.

The Golden Eagles were missing starters Maurice Leak (quarterback) and Justin Johnson (right tackle) while starting running back Jordan Roberts played although he was still battling the effects of flu-like symptoms.

The result was a 17-14 win over the Mountain Lions, the defending West Virginia Conference champions who qualified for the NCAA Division II playoffs last year.

UC leaned heavily on its defense as senior lineman Jeff Green turned in a school-record four sacks and returned a fumble 11 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 8:17 left in the game to secure the victory. The 6-foot-2 resident of Johnson City, Tenn., who also had six solo tackles, earned West Virginia Conference defensive player of the week honors Monday for his efforts.

"Anytime you win in conference you're happy,'' said Kirkland, whose team improved to 3-0 and is on a seven-game winning streak dating back to last season. "They battled.

"At times we didn't execute like I thought we should have. I thought the effort was there. We left some points out there on the field and definitely I thought we gave up some yards we shouldn't have. A lot of that, Concord did a good job.''

Kirkland said freshman quarterback John Knox, who played most of the game against St. Joseph's (Ind.) after Leak injured his ankle and got the start against Concord, is continuing to improve.

Knox passed for 162 yards with one interception and rushed for 93 versus Concord after throwing for 145 yards and two TDs and running for 53 against St. Joseph the week before.

"He's going to be a great football player,'' said the Golden Eagles coach. "He just needs more reps. He went out there and won us a football game.

"I thought Concord did a nice job with stacking the box and trying to stop the ground game. We put the ball in the air to counter that and did a nice job, just didn't finish some things we needed to.''

Kirkland said Leak's status for the Golden Eagles' home game with powerhouse Shepherd at 1 p.m. Saturday is uncertain.

"Right now he still hasn't practiced at all,'' said the coach. "He's day to day. I'm trying to be optimistic. You just never know with ankles. He's still walking around in a boot. We're planning on him not playing.''

Roberts, the senior All-American from Scott High School, gained 48 yards against the Mountain Lions and needs 121 yards to become UC's all-time leading rusher.

"He's better,'' said Kirkland. "I don't want to say 100 percent.''

Shepherd's lone loss this year was to Shippensburg (Pa.), which received 34 votes in Monday's American Coaches Football Association Division II poll.

"Shepherd is one of the most talented teams top to bottom,'' Kirkland said. "Even from last year and when they had the great teams, I think this team is the most talented team they've had.

"They're hitting on all cylinders. [There was a] big difference between Week 1 and Week 3 with them already. It's going to be a big test for us. To put ourselves in a position to win, we've got to play our best football.''

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  • West Virginia State completed its run of Football Championship Series teams Saturday with a 48-14 loss at Elon (N.C.). The Yellow Jackets lost at North Carolina A&T 77-0 two weeks ago.

    State (1-2) managed 251 yards of total offense against Elon, which was considered to be its strongest opponent of the season. Yellow Jackets senior quarterback Ricky Phillips threw for 167 yards and a TD with no interceptions and was only sacked twice.

    "We're still pretty healthy,'' said State coach Earl Monroe. "We don't have anything major. We've just got some bumps and bruises. That was one of the biggest concerns playing Division I. Our guys have been in some big stadiums against some pretty big and fast teams.

    "Hopefully, that'll give us some confidence going into the conference. This past week I thought we played better. We're still making those early-in-the-season mistakes that were trying to eliminate. We were moving the ball and getting some stops. We got a chance to play a lot of kids. We got a little bit of that figured out depth-wise.'' 

    The Yellow Jackets return home after two weeks on the road to face Concord at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lakin Field in Institute.

    "It doesn't get any easier,'' Monroe said. "We knew we had to have some pretty good competition to prepare for it. Hopefully that experiment worked.''

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  • Shepherd's Bobby Cooper was named the WVC's offensive player of the week after completing 24 of 28 passes, connecting on 85.7 percent of his attempts, for 286 yards with four TDs in just three quarters.

    Fairmont State's Ryland Newman was chosen the league's special teams player of the week after recovering two blocked kicks, returning one for a 57-yard score. The 5-11 senior from Ranson added six tackles and broke up a pass on defense.

    Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.

     


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