Winless State hosts UC
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Having arisen somewhat from the offensive dark ages but still having nothing to show for it, rebuilding West Virginia State welcomes its neighbor to the east, the University of Charleston.
Today's 1 p.m. game in Institute represents the next barometer of progress for the Yellow Jackets (0-6, 0-5 Mountain East). Coach Jon Anderson won't accept a moral victory, but the cold, hard truth is this: His team lost to UC 62-0 a year ago.
UC is shooting for its fifth win in a row over its rival, and wants to keep pace with nationally ranked Shepherd in the MEC standings. But Anderson isn't just worried about the team in maroon and gold uniforms.
"At this point, our team is at the point where we need to work on ourselves," Anderson said. "We need to be fundamentally sound and physical and right now we're not. We've got an opportunity every week, and we've got to outwork, out-scheme and outplay opponents. UC is no different."
UC (3-3, 3-1) is coming off its best defensive game of the season, yielding 170 total yards in a 17-10 win over Glenville State. The Golden Eagles forced five turnovers and held the Pioneers to three field-goal attempts in three trips to the red zone - and two of those missed.
A repeat effort would severely test State's offense, which gained 420 total yards in a 45-30 loss to West Virginia Wesleyan. The Jackets had scored 16 points in the previous four games.
UC seems to be suffering more injuries at this point, while State is fortunate on that front.
"We've had five or six starters out, so we're getting some young guys the opportunity to play," said UC coach Pat Kirkland. "We've already had four guys get surgery time. We're young on the offensive line, but some young guys have stepped up and will continue to step up."
With Shepherd (6-0, 5-0) rising to 11th in the latest AFCA poll, the Rams continue their march toward an unblemished season at noon against Notre Dame College (3-3, 2-2).
The Rams' calling card clearly has been defense, as opponents have scored just 64 points over six games. The Rams lead Division II in rushing defense (23.5 yards allowed) and third-down conversions (19.5 percent), and are second in total yardage defense (253.5). Also, they are fourth in pass efficiency defense (92.75 rating).
West Liberty's defense isn't far behind Shepherd in several defensive categories, and is first in one - red-zone defense. Opponents are scoring just 45.5 percent of their forays inside the Hilltoppers' 20-yard line.
Playing at home, the Hilltoppers (3-3, 3-1) will be tested by the offense of Urbana (4-2, 4-1), and by quarterback D.J. Mendenhall. Mendenhall is fourth in Division II in passing touchdowns (20) and passing yards per game (342.0), seventh in points responsible for (128) and 10th in total offense (344.8).
In the other two MEC games, Virginia-Wise (0-6, 0-4) visits Glenville State (2-4, 2-3) while West Virginia Wesleyan (2-4, 2-3) goes to Concord (4-2, 3-1).
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.