WVC football: UC hopes to savor this week's home game
After an impressive 30-10 win last week over Fairmont State, the University of Charleston will prepare to play its homecoming game Saturday at 2 p.m. against Seton Hill.
Kind of fitting, because the Golden Eagles won't be coming back home for quite a while.
After Saturday's contest, UC will be on the road for four consecutive weeks before its season finale against West Virginia State at UC Stadium on Nov. 10.
But with a win this week, the Golden Eagles can put themselves in pretty good position heading into what coach Pat Kirkland is calling UC's "away tour."
"I told our guys we better really enjoy this one," Kirkland said. "We better play well because we want to leave the city of Charleston and the university with a good taste in their mouth when it comes to UC football."
After last week's performance, the program should taste as sweet as chocolate.
Jordan Roberts rumbled for 148 yards and a touchdown, eclipsing the school mark for career rushing yards along the way. His 56-yard touchdown run came a mere 18 seconds after he blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety.
His scoring spurt late in the second quarter helped turn a 7-7 tie into a 16-7 advantage heading into halftime and UC (4-1 overall, 2-1 West Virginia Conference) was off to the races from there.
"He's extremely reliable and he's a great leader on this football team," Kirkland said of Roberts. "He leads by example with his work ethic. He's had some success and obviously the offensive line is playing well. Jordan has done a tremendous job, he knows the offense, and he runs within our scheme. I'm excited about him moving forward, there's a lot of football left to be played this season."
How much of that remaining football starting quarterback Maurice Leak will play is still up in the air. The junior has been injured since UC's second game of the season and Kirkland said Leak is still day to day, and still in a walking boot.
"It's been difficult for him," Kirkland said. "He's a competitor, he worked extremely hard in the offseason."
On the bright side, John Knox really seemed to come into his own against Fairmont State.
The freshman threw for 178 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 10-of-18 passing and added 93 yards and a touchdown on 18 rushes.
"He has stepped in and done a tremendous job for a young man playing quarterback," Kirkland said. "I told John his goal is to continue to progress and get better. He's in an offense where it's a team offense - it's not centered around one person. His job is managing the offense. Prior to [Saturday] I think he felt more weight on his shoulders and he doesn't need to do that. Saturday, he just played within the offense and good things happened."
Seton Hill (0-5, 0-3) is still looking for its first win of the year.
Don't pencil in West Virginia State as the conference champion yet, but it sure did seem like the Yellow Jackets turned an important corner on Saturday.
A week after pushing defending West Virginia Conference champion Concord to the brink in a 23-16 loss, State found itself trailing 13-0 at Seton Hill, a position in which the team would've likely folded in the past couple of years.
But credit State for holding the Griffins off the scoreboard the rest of the way, allowing quarterback Ricky Phillips and the offense to churn out enough points in an important 21-13 win, the first road win for the program since Sept. 20, 2008 at Charleston, spanning 20 games.
"On the road and coming from behind - it was a really big win for us," coach Earl Monroe said. "We had to make some adjustments on defense, but we were able to bend but not break. We had a couple of big stops early and made them kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns and the guys just kept fighting. In the past the ball always seemed to bounce the wrong way, but finally it bounced our way this week."
Phillips left the game in the second half but returned and hit Ervin Kent on a 26-yard scoring pass to ice the game late in the fourth quarter.
Phillips isn't the only one hurting though, as the defense has been ailing despite showing signs of vast improvement over years past.
Sophomore outside linebacker Billy Wade will miss the rest of the season coming off knee surgery and will request a medical redshirt. Freshman linebacker Charlie Thompson and sophomore backer T.J. Austin have also been injured, forcing freshmen Edward Blair IV and Charles Eskew III into action.
"We harp on not giving up the big play," Monroe said. "If you look at defenses from Division I to the pros, the offenses have gotten so complicated, it's hard to straight stop people. You have to be able to bend but don't break and eliminate big plays. If we can keep all plays 20 yards or less, even if they do a great job and are executing, people still have to drive against you. Then the score will still be manageable."
The Jackets (2-3, 1-1) will also be celebrating homecoming when they welcome in West Liberty at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers (2-3, 1-2) are coming off back-to-back conference losses to Fairmont State and Glenville State after beating West Virginia Wesleyan in the league opener.
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