The University of Charleston must accomplish something today it hasn't done in awhile.
The Golden Eagles, who just saw their seven-game winning streak snapped, must now try to bounce back with a West Virginia Conference victory against Fairmont State at noon today at UC Stadium.
UC (3-1 overall, 1-1 WVC) squandered several chances last week to knock off perennial power Shepherd and suffered a 16-10 loss, its first setback since Oct. 15, 2011 (a 52-14 loss to UNC Pembroke).
"We've got a tough one this week and we've got to try to turn the page and get ready,'' said Golden Eagles second-year coach Pat Kirkland. "I've been happy with the way they've practiced this week. I told our coaches the best thing we can do is watch the film [on Shepherd], put it to bed and get those mistakes we made against Shepherd corrected. I think we've done a nice job of addressing that.''
UC is superior to Fairmont State (1-3, 1-1) in nearly every statistical category, but the Falcons are coming in with momentum after securing their first win of the season last week, a 25-20 home victory against West Liberty.
"I think we learned that last year, you win a game and it gets the players rejuvenated,'' Kirkland said. "I thought after watching the West Liberty film they're going to be hungry. We've got to be at our best.''
The Golden Eagles are ranked third in the league in scoring offense (26 points per game) and second in total offense (362 yards) and tops in rushing offense (209 yards).
UC is also first in total defense, yielding the fewest yards per game at 274.5, and pass defense (142.5), abd ranks second in scoring defense (17.5 points) and sacks (13).
Fairmont State ranks next-to-last in offense, putting up just 15.8 points per game. Falcons quarterback Bobby Vega, though, is second in the league in passing with 939 yards and six touchdowns against seven interceptions and leads in total offense, averaging 218.8 yards per contest.
"Their record's not indicative of what they have talent-wise,'' said Kirkland. "I think they've got talent especially on the offensive side of the ball. We've got to do a good job and make sure we don't give them any home-run plays this week.''
Kirkland is hoping his players are closer to 100 percent than the previous couple of weeks.
UC starting quarterback Maurice Leak returned last week from a high ankle sprain but completed just 13 of 33 passes versus Shepherd. Kirkland said Leak, who only participated in 35 of UC's 65 plays against the Rams, is still day-to-day.
Golden Eagles All-America running back Jordan Roberts, who needs 102 yards to set the school record for career rushing yards, is nearing 100 percent after a bout with flu-like symptoms. He was limited to 20 yards on the ground against the Rams.
Roberts still leads the conference in all-purpose yardage, averaging 149.2 yards per game, and is second in rushing with 391 yards for a 5.9 average and three TDs.
The road hasn't been kind to West Virginia State.
The Yellow Jackets (1-3, 0-1) hope to end a 20-game losing streak away from home when they visit Seton Hill (0-4, 0-2) at noon today.
The Griffins, who seem ripe for the picking, and State have alternated wins and losses since 2007, with the Jackets winning 27-21 last year in Institute.
This isn't your usual Seton Hill team, though.
"[They have a] new offensive coordinator and [they're] spreading the ball all over the place,'' said State coach Earl Monroe, who watched his team miss an opportunity to knock off defending WVC champion Concord last week, losing 20-16. "They're big up front [and have] athletic receivers.
"Any time they spread you out and throw the football you've got to defend the perimeter and be sure tacklers. We've got to be on our toes and make sure we know our assignments on both sides of the football.''
The Griffins are the only winless team in the league and own a six-game losing streak dating back to last year. Seton Hill fell at West Virginia Wesleyan 41-17 last week.
State and Seton Hill both rank near the bottom of most team offensive and defensive categories.
Yellow Jackets running back Aubura Taylor is second in the league in all-purpose yards (144.8 per game) and fourth in rushing (201 yards, two TDs). State's defense has caused some havoc with Durelle Evans tied for first with two interceptions while Wenley Beliard is first in fumbles forced (two) and fumbles recovered (three).
The Griffins' Tyler Zimmer is tops in the league in sacks with seven.
In other games today, Concord (2-2, 1-1) visits Shepherd (3-1, 1-0) at noon in a showdown of the WVC's last two conference champions, West Liberty (2-2, 1-1) hosts Glenville State (1-3, 1-0) at 1 p.m. and West Virginia Wesleyan (1-3) and Urbana (Ohio) tangle at 1 p.m. in a nonconference matchup.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.