CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Pat Kirkland's late-game fourth-and-one gamble at midfield failed big-time, thereby extending hope to a Glenville State offense greatly in need of invigoration.
But Kirkland, the University of Charleston's third-year coach, had a back-up plan - defense.
With UC leading by a touchdown and 8:48 left in the game, the Golden Eagles coach gambled that his offense would gain the needed yard on fourth down and thus deliver another dispiriting punch to the Glenville chances.
The Pioneers, however, held their ground and took over on the UC 49. But in a microcosm of their long afternoon, the Pioneers continued to struggle against the UC defense, allowing the Golden Eagles to escape with a 17-10 victory Saturday at UC Stadium. A homecoming crowd of about 2,500 attended.
"The reason they went for it on fourth down,'' said UC cornerback Torie Wagner, "is because the coaches have faith in the defense. We were stopping them the whole game.''
The Pioneers, to their credit, moved 27 yards to the UC 22 after thwarting the Golden Eagles' gamble but surrendered the ball on downs. And after forcing a UC punt, they took over at their own 39 with 13 seconds left, giving them time for two short completions and a failed Hail Mary at the buzzer.
Despite the late threats, Glenville (2-4, 2-3 Mountain East) totaled just 173 yards of offense, averaged only 2.5 yards per play and committed five turnovers on three interceptions and two fumbles.
"We were fortunate that our defense stepped up,'' said Kirkland. "Our defense stepped up all day. We're proud of the way our defense played today.''
He was disappointed, however, that his offense, which rushed for 234 yards on the day, failed to pick up the first down with 8:48 left.
"Fourth-and-one, we should be 100 percent,'' he said. "I felt confident that our defense would step up, and they did. And I also felt confident in our offense - fourth-and-half-a-yard. We should have gotten it. We had been running the ball pretty well. The offensive line had been playing well. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to get it.''