Gardner-Webb coach Carroll McCray
EDITOR's NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Date with Marshall: Saturday, Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m.
Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,000, FieldTurf), Huntington
Series: First meeting
Last meeting: None
Coach: Carroll McCray (first season at Gardner-Webb; sixth season overall, 16-39)
Checking them out
This game, mismatch it should be, could have had the interesting story plot of Ron Dickerson Jr. as head coach at Gardner-Webb, with his father and former Temple coach Ron Dickerson Sr. on the staff. Alas, the younger Dickerson resigned abruptly in January.
GWU alum Carroll McCray came from Division II North Greenville to take the job, and will try to reverse the Runnin' Bulldogs' 7-15 record over the past two seasons.
The biggest problem was the pass defense, or lack thereof. The Bulldogs gave up 2,693 yards and 22 TDs vs. only seven interceptions for an efficiency rating of 161.01 - 117th in the FCS. Injuries in the secondary didn't help, as true freshmen and even a backup QB were pressed into duty.
The offense is more experienced, at least at the skill positions. Lucas Beatty (2,483 yards, 12 TDs, 13 interceptions) is a third-year full-time starter, with top targets Kenny Cook (48-666, seven TDs) and Seth Cranfill (37-366) returning. The top running back is gone, but Juanne Blount (489 yards, six TDs) and J.J. Hubbard return. The junior-laden line has some experience, but last year's core group graduated.
The front is the strength of the defense, with tackle Matt Goods and end Preston Pemasa (seven tackles for loss) back. At linebacker, Tanner Burch (113 tackles, 7.5 for loss) was the leading tackler of 2012 and Shaquille Reddick (6.5 TFLs, two sacks) has been used as a hybrid player.
Free safety Drew White (33 tackles) may emerge as the leader of what will be a young secondary. The kicking game is up in the air - a soccer player was used in the spring, and several freshmen will get their shot.
Offense: TE Seth Cranfill, RB Kenny Little, WR Kenny Cook, QB Lucas Beatty
Defense: DE Preston Pemasa, LB Tanner Burch
Special teams: LS Hudson Smith
Much like half of the coaching world (or so it seems), McCray has a history against Marshall - he started his coaching career at Appalachian State in 1984, serving for Sparky Woods through 1988. Both went on to South Carolina. ... During his 2003-06 head coaching stint at Austin Peay, he was assigned to bring a non-scholarship program back to scholarship status, and to return to the Ohio Valley Conference. He took some considerable lumps, including a 27-19 loss at the University of Charleston in the 2005 opener. ... As a side note, McCray is an ordained Baptist deacon. ... Another state connection: Gardner-Webb advanced to the 1992 NAIA national finals, defeating Concord and Shepherd along the way. The Bulldogs entered Division I-AA in 2000, and won the first two Big South titles in 2002 and 2003.
Aug. 31 Furman DNP
Sept. 7 at Marshall DNP
Sept. 14 Richmond L, 8-41
Sept. 21 at Wofford L, 7-34
Sept. 28 Point DNP
Oct. 5 at Charlotte DNP
Oct. 12 at Coast. Carolina* L, 33-55
Oct. 26 Liberty* DNP
Nov. 2 Warner DNP
Nov. 9 at VMI* W, 38-7
Nov. 16 Chas. Southern* L, 10-28
Nov. 23 at Presbyterian W, 21-15
*Big South games
2012 record: 3-8 (2-4 Big South, 5th)
Dropped: Samford (L, 23-44), Pittsburgh (L, 10-55), Mid America Nazarene (W, 30-28), Stony Brook (L, 10-41)