Potent offenses square off tonight as UC hosts St. Joseph's
The University of Charleston enters tonight's home game against St. Joseph's College with the reigning West Virginia Conference co-offensive player of the week in running back Jordan Roberts, but the Pumas have a pair of award-winning players of their own.
St. Joseph's Julian Walker was named the Division II national wide receiver of the week by Beyond College Sports Network after catching 11 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-34 win against Valparaiso from the Football Championship Subdivision last week.
Quarterback Billy VanderMerkt was honored as the Great Lakes Valley Conference offensive player of the week after going 21 for 38 passing with 303 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner after leading St. Joseph's down the field in the game's final three minutes.
With the potential for offensive fireworks from both teams, UC head coach Pat Kirkland said slowing Walker and VanderMerkt would be a key for his team to be successful.
"[VanderMerkt and Walker] are guys that have a whole lot of experience," Kirkland said. "Walker and the quarterback are guys that have been playing together for a long time and whenever they have that chemistry you're paying close attention to where those guys are at all times. What we've got to do is pre-snap. Hopefully we get our hands on No. 5 [Walker] down the field and put some pressure on the quarterback."
Roberts, the current Division II leader in all-purpose yards, earned the WVC honor after running for 238 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries while also catching two passes for 27 yards.
St. Joseph's enters the 7 p.m. contest at UC Stadium having allowed 129 rushing yards and four touchdowns in its one previous game. Roberts is 244 yards shy of breaking DaRante's Hunter's UC career rushing record of 2,292 yards.
"[Roberts] has put himself in a position where he's in great shape and is a workhorse," Kirkland said. "Those five guys in front of him on the offensive line have had that same work ethic. Being physical, coming off the ball, they've got a mentality that they will just smack you in the teeth. That's been one of the biggest pluses with Jordan's success so far."
UC did many things right in last week's 44-26 win over Shaw, but Kirkland said the Golden Eagles' penalty numbers need to improve.
"We've got to eliminate the penalties," he said. "It stopped drives for us and it kept drives alive for Shaw last week. On both sides of the ball we've got to clean up the mental mistakes we had. There weren't a lot, the effort is there, but a couple times we had some mental things we'd like to get taken care of."
Fairmont State travels to play at Glenville State in the only other WVC game today. The Falcons and Pioneers each lost their first game but enter this year's installment of the "Battle of the Bit" on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Fairmont State, which lost 7-0 at Clarion (Pa.), scored fewer points than any other team in the conference but the FSU defense leads the WVC in fewest points allowed. Glenville State is exactly the opposite. The Pioneers scored more than the rest of the WVC but also allowed more points than the rest of the league in a 56-46 loss at Carson-Newman (Tenn.).
FSU struggled to run the ball last week as running back Daniel Monroe, who transferred in before the 2011 season from Florida State, managed just 37 yards on 19 attempts. The Falcons found more production through the air, but not points. Quarterback Bobby Vega threw for 321 yards but also had two passes intercepted.
For Glenville, quarterback Darold Hughes had a big game against Carson-Newman with 305 yards through the air to go with five touchdown passes and another touchdown running the ball. Hughes shared the WVC offensive player of the week award with UC's Roberts.
The Pioneers won last season's game in Fairmont when Hughes found Kareem Alexander in the end zone to give Glenville a 36-30 win in triple overtime.
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.