It’s not time to call the University of Charleston football team’s offense “Air Kirkland” just yet, but Golden Eagles coach Pat Kirkland was more than pleased at the way his passing game excelled in UC’s opening win over Fairmont State.
No Charleston quarterback had thrown for more yards in a game than Brant Grisel’s 367 with three touchdowns in a 42-39 win over the Falcons. Add Guy Myers’ 62 yards and a TD on 2-for-2 passing and the Golden Eagles were soaring.
For Kirkland, one of the best feelings was to be comfortable with letting the football fly early.
“You always get nervous at second and 10, which means an incomplete pass on first down is a big deal,” Kirkland said. “That’s the first time in a while we’ve had the confidence to call a pass play on first down and let it go. It’s great to have that confidence.”
Regardless of how Charleston racks up the yards Thursday, the Golden Eagles know they’ll be in for another battle when they visit Urbana at 7 p.m.
Kirkland had plenty of praise to spread around for that record-breaking passing night. He lauded offensive coordinator Paul Johnson for putting the group in the position to thrive, the quarterbacks for doing their jobs, and the receivers for all putting in great performances.
Four UC wideouts finished with at least 73 yards, led by Mike Strachan’s 157 yards and two TDs on nine catches.
“They did a really good job of route-running and finding the holes in the defense,” Kirkland said. “A lot of those routes were conversion routes, based on what they saw. You’ve got to make sure the quarterback and the receiver are on the same page, and they were, especially in the first half.”
In the second half, the Golden Eagles (1-0, 1-0 Mountain East) weathered a furious Fairmont State comeback, getting outscored 36-7 in the final two quarters, but still able to hold off a Falcons team ranked 25th in the country entering the game.
If UC had any thoughts of catching its breath, Kirkland said those ended as soon as they turned on the Urbana film. The Blue Knights (1-0, 1-0 MEC) started last season 4-1, but went 1-5 the rest of the way due to injuries. Urbana is healthy now, and showed it with a 43-14 win over West Virginia Wesleyan.
The Blue Knights took advantage of the NCAA transfer portal in the offseason. Players formerly at Notre Dame, Michigan State, Maryland, Oregon State, Kentucky and Colorado now find themselves on the roster.
“They brought in some big bodies on the offensive and defensive lines, plus a couple of skill kids,” Kirkland said. “They’re as talented as we’ll play all year.”