MEC football: UC hosts NDC in home opener
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As it turns out, former West Virginia Power play-by-play announcer Andy Barch's return to the Kanawha Valley has been delayed until November.
A wedding of a friend will place Barch in Providence, R.I., while his Notre Dame College team travels to Laidley Field to take on the University of Charleston. Barch, the school's manager of sports information and broadcasting, will accompany the suburban Cleveland school to West Virginia State on Nov. 2.
Barch isn't the big story, even if he were here for the 1 p.m. contest today. This is: UC is facing a Falcons team that captured its first Mountain East Conference win last week, 34-25 against West Virginia Wesleyan. The Golden Eagles (1-2, 1-0) are coming off an impressive MEC debut, winning 38-15 at Virginia-Wise.
The Falcons (1-1. 2-1) are in their fifth year as a football program, counting a 2009 season playing non-varsity ball. They rose from being an NAIA independent to an NCAA Division II candidate to membership in the Great Lakes Conference. With many schools in the GLIAC situated in upstate Michigan - two in the Upper Peninsula - the MEC was a better fit.
"It makes more sense geographically," Barch said. "Most schools are within a four-hour radius."
The Falcons like to throw it, and Ray Russ completed 32 of 56 for 309 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Wesleyan. Jack Foy caught 15 of those passes for 113 yards and two scores, while Pedro Powell rushed 33 times for 173 yards
If that sounds like a lot of plays, it was - 97 in all, to Wesleyan's 82.
"Their goal is as soon as that ball is spotted, they're snapping it," said UC coach Pat Kirkland. "Their tailback, I think, was the freshman of the year in the GLIAC [no, but he is a preseason Division II All-American]. They're as big as anybody we've faced up front, including I-AA Southern Illinois.
"They're talented offensively and solid against the run on defense."
UC came off its 0-2 start with that win at Virginia-Wise. Leighton Settle rushed for 128 yards and the Eagles returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Among the top defenders with seven tackles is the nose guard with one of the great names in college football, Rock Stone.
Kirkland and his team are plenty happy to not hit the road for the first time this season.
"It's nice being home on a Friday and not being in a hotel right now," he said.
West Virginia State (0-3, 0-2) did spend Friday night in a hotel, awaiting today's 1 p.m. bout at Fairmont State (1-2, 0-2).
The Yellow Jackets' Lakin Field mercifully gets the weekend off - and some new seeding - after getting chewed up in State's 9-0 loss to West Liberty. The Jackets' offense got chewed up again, gaining just 142 total yards, but the defense is showing promise.
Here's how much: West Liberty converted just 4 of 17 third downs and managed only three field goals in seven trips to the "red zone."
The Jackets still need a considerable amount of help on offense, where they're averaging just 5.3 points and 237 total yards per game.
"We need some wins and we need some points on offense," said State coach Jon Anderson. "My message is pretty consistent, and I've seen improvement week in and week out. As long as we get better and take care of details, the 'W's' will take care of themselves, too."
Phillip LeFloyd is seventh in league rushing, averaging 69 yards per game.
Elsewhere in the Mountain East today, Concord (2-1, 1-0) travels to West Liberty (2-1, 2-0) in a battle of two of the four teams unbeaten in conference play. Shepherd (3-0, 2-0), the league's only unbeaten team overall, travels to West Virginia Wesleyan (1-2, 1-1).
Elsewhere, Glenville State (1-2, 1-1) visits Urbana (1-2, 1-1), while UVa-Wise plays a nonconference homecoming game against Union (Ky.).
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.