UC faces tough test at Pembroke
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There is a lot at stake for the University of Charleston this weekend.
The Golden Eagles (5-1) will travel to play at nationally ranked University of North Carolina Pembroke (5-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday in their final nonconference game of the season.
UC's only loss so far this was a 16-10 setback to Shepherd, which broke into the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 this week at No. 25. The Golden Eagles have a chance to cement their playoff positioning with a win over No. 24 UNC Pembroke, whose only loss was to No. 3 Winston Salem State.
There's also some pride at stake for the Golden Eagles, who saw UNC Pembroke come to UC Stadium last year and ring up a 52-14 victory. UC's only two losses in its last 10 home games have been to Shepherd and Pembroke.
"It would do nothing but help us to get a victory,'' said UC second-year coach Pat Kirkland. "I think it's a big game. I don't think it's make-or-break. We're going to have to play our best to have a chance to win.
"Last year it was a team that came here and dominated the football game. I think they're as good if not better than last year. I also think we're a better football team.''
UC is beginning to heal up from injuries and illness.
Golden Eagles starting quarterback Maurice Leak (high-ankle sprain) is beginning to take more snaps during games and All-American tailback Jordan Roberts (flu-like symptoms) seems to be back at full strength after turning in 205 yards rushing, three touchdowns and 301 all-purpose yards in a 30-13 win over Seton Hill last week.
"I think [our players are] ready just to play another game,'' Kirkland said. "We've had some success of late.''
After snapping its 20-game road losing streak two weeks ago, West Virginia State had a rude awakening at home last weekend.
The Yellow Jackets lost to West Liberty 52-19, but had several players out with injuries, most noticeably on defense.
State defensive starters T.J. Austin (sophomore linebacker), Billy Wade (a sophomore linebacker from Brooke High School) and freshman linebacker Charlie Thompson missed the Hilltoppers game while nursing injuries and were replaced by freshmen. Also, starting quarterback Ricky Phillips started but missed most of last week's practices with a leg injury.
"The guys that we have in there have to play,'' said State coach Earl Monroe. "We thought we had those guys ready. Some of them were first-time playing.
"They did a good job, but they're not going to be as good as the other guys who have been in the fire. There were some formations and plays that were run that we needed to be adjusted in an out of and we didn't make the plays.''
Monroe said it was good experience for those freshmen backup players, who will also see time this week. The Yellow Jackets (2-4 overall, 1-2 WVC) will get another test at Glenville State (2-4, 2-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"They'll get more reps this week and get the majority of the snaps from here on out,'' said the State coach. "Guys played hard, we've just got to be able to make adjustments. We've just got to get better and figure out how to get it fixed. Whoever is in uniform is going to have to be able to perform.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.