New State coach to get first taste of UC rivalry
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia State has lost four football games in a row to its rivals at the University of Charleston by a wide margin - 62-0 last November a prime example - but Yellow Jackets coach Jon Anderson hasn't had a part in that.
UC coach Pat Kirkland has won both of his games against State by a combined 104-20, but knows this edition of the Yellow Jackets bears no resemblance to recent teams, save for the record. Anderson's building efforts have brought a horde of new talent to Institute.
As the teams face off Saturday at State's Lakin Field, the game presents unknowns for both coaches.
"They're totally different, night and day from last year," Kirkland said of the winless Jackets. "They've got different schemes on both sides, different players - their offense has 10 of 11 new starters, and their defense is pretty similar with seven or eight new starters. They've upgraded, did a good job recruiting. In some of their games, they were in it."
Case in point: State's 45-30 loss last week to West Virginia Wesleyan. The Jackets forced five turnovers, including three interceptions by Dominique Matthews.
Offensively, the Jackets (0-6, 0-5 Mountain East) woke up, compiling 420 total yards and converting 13 of 23 third-down attempts. Quarterback Tyler Seals threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-51 passing. State also enjoyed a 33:10-26:50 advantage in time of possession.
But the Bobcats struck for pass plays of 46 and 59 yards in the second quarter, the former setting up a touchdown and the latter scoring one for a 21-17 halftime lead. Two fumbles were returned for Wesleyan touchdowns in the second half, the latter killing State's fourth-quarter rally.
Two parts production, one part self-destruction.
"In order to get a win, you can't just play hard," Anderson said. "You've got to be more mistake-free than your opponent, and we weren't."
UC (3-3, 3-1) overcame its five turnovers to fend off Glenville State 17-10 last week. Three took place in the Golden Eagles' territory, but the Pioneers could only manage a missed field goal. In fact, the Pioneers gained only 173 total yards and scored their lone touchdown on a 93-yard kickoff return.
Cornerback Kenneth Ridley won co-defensive player of the week honors in the MEC for his six tackles, two for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and two pass breakups.
"Linebacker Matt Kelly has probably been a constant force for us all year," Kirkland said. "We played our best game of the season defensively, and Kenneth Ridley had some big plays."
Anderson isn't preparing for this as a rivalry game per se, as he's trying to get his own troops to continue improvement in all phases. That doesn't mean he isn't casting an admiring eye eastward on Interstate 64.
"They are very talented, well-coached. They're a physical team," Anderson said of the Eagles. "I can appreciate that on both sides of the ball. On the line of scrimmage, you can tell that's their mindset and their philosophy.
"That's what I want for our program. It's going to be a great challenge; it's a close rivalry."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.