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UC, WVSU football face tall tasks on short week

ASHLEY CALVERT | For the Gazette-Mail
West Virginia State running back Calil Wilkins (2) breaks away from the University of Charleston defense during the Yellow Jackets’ season-opening win over the Golden Eagles.

The West Virginia State football team is trying to start a season 2-0 for the first time since 2008. The University of Charleston hopes to avoid its second consecutive 0-2 start after last Saturday’s loss to the Yellow Jackets.

Both teams will have the always-difficult challenge of preparing for those missions on a short week. Both UC and State next play Thursday.

The Yellow Jackets hit the road to take on UVa-Wise. The Golden Eagles will stay in Charleston and host Concord at UC Stadium. Both the Cavaliers (1-0, 1-0 Mountain East) and Mountain Lions (0-1, 0-1 MEC) have the luxury of a full week to prepare for the game, since both started their seasons last Thursday.

“It’s never a good time to have a short week, and Concord gets that full week of preparation after they got to play last Thursday night as well,” Charleston coach Pat Kirkland said. “It is what it is and we just have to embrace that challenge ahead that is ahead of us. We just have to go out there and be ready to play and try to keep moving forward.”

Charleston had a couple of bright spots in that opening loss, including junior quarterback Mason Olszewski. After missing most of last season with injuries, Olszewski ran for 182 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns against West Virginia State in a 51-28 loss.

And while Kirkland was pleased with the play of his starting quarterback, he knows that he needs to see that type of performance from players across the roster in order for the team to be able to get back on track after that after that first setback.

“Mason played well and, at times, put us in a position where we could make some plays,” Kirkland said. “But the long story short is that this is a team game and there are some things we can take away from this game that were good and bad, but if we want to get better, everyone has to play better in all phases of the game.”

For Pennington and the Yellow Jackets, the big focus heading into the short week was on avoiding complacency and focusing on their ultimate goals after beating Charleston for the first time since 2008. The Cavaliers team waiting for them Thursday night that is expected to be among the best in the MEC this season. The Cavs defeated Glenville State 41-29 last Thursday behind 318 passing yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Brycen Lee.

WVSU knows there won’t be much room for error when it hits the road this week.

Against UC, West Virginia State got a big game from running back Calil Wilkins who carried the ball 24 times for 191 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Matt Kinnick completed 22 of 27 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns. It was just the eighth time since 1998 that the Yellow Jackets scored 50 or more points in a game.

“We’re going to enjoy the win for now, but we know what’s coming up on Thursday night,” Pennington said. “I told them all last week that whether we won or lost [against UC], we can’t really dwell or focus on that result too much. We have to keep our minds on this process we’re going through right now and keep working to get better every single day.

“Our goal coming into the season was to be the most improved team in the country, it wasn’t just to win that first game. We have to keep getting better and better.”

Contact Michael Carvelli at 304-348-4810 or michael.carvelli@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @carvelli3.

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