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The University of Charleston’s football team is set for one of its toughest tests of 2021.

The Golden Eagles (2-1 overall and in MEC games), who are coming off a 69-7 rout of Alderson Broaddus, are set to take on Mountain East Conference co-front runner Notre Dame (4-0, 3-0 MEC) on Saturday in a noon matchup at University of Charleston Stadium.

UC’s matchup against Notre Dame is a big one. The Golden Eagles are in third place in the MEC standings as both Notre Dame and Frostburg State are undefeated and tied for first. Though it’s early in the season, Saturday’s game gives UC a chance to gain some ground on the Falcons.

“It is a big game,” UC coach Pat Kirkland said. “You hate to say week four of the season is a big game. The players know that. Have we changed out preparation? No. We’re playing a good football team that’s won the conference the last three years. Anytime you play that team it’s a big game.”

It will be a battle of a Nore Dame’s MEC-leading offense and UC’s MEC-leading defense. Notre Dame has outscored opponents 162-74 this season to top the MEC in scoring. Conversely, UC has outscored opponents 120-43 and the Golden Eagles have scored the second-most points in the MEC while allowing the fewest points in the conference. Notre Dame has a formidable defense as well, holding opponents to 18.5 points per game.

“Their strength is their offensive line,” Kirkland said. “All five guys [are] returners. They’re big. They’re physical. Their quarterback makes good decisions. Offensively, they’re as good as anybody in the country.”

Notre Dame quarterback Chris Brimm has completed 71 of his 108 pass attempts (75.74%) for an MEC-leading 1,145 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Notre Dame averages 191 rushing yards per game and redshirt sophomore running back Tyris Dickerson leads that effort, averaging 119.5 yards per game. Dickerson has rushed for an MEC-leading 478 yards on 90 attempts with four touchdowns.

“They’ve got a good scheme,” Kirkland said. “Their head coach [Mickey Mental] has only been the head coach there for a year but he’s been involved and he’s been on staff there for a prolonged period of time so they haven’t changed a whole bunch schematically.

“Top to bottom, there’s not a weak spot. It’s just making sure that we execute at a high level and try to limit their big plays on offense.”

West Virginia State vs. Alderson Broaddus

The Yellow Jackets (1-3, 1-2 MEC) are coming off a 38-14 loss to Notre Dame and are set to play Alderson Broaddus at 7 p.m. Saturday at UC Stadium.

WVSU is playing its home games at UC Stadium while a new artificial surface is installed at Lakin Field in Institute, prompting Saturday’s rare day-night doubleheader. The Jackets will play for the first time on that surface on Oct. 16, when WVSU hosts UNC Pembroke on homecoming day.

The Battlers (0-4, 0-3 MEC) have been outscored 139-16 and average four points per game. WVSU coach John Pennington isn’t sleeping on Alderson Broaddus and is maintaining focus heading into the weekend.

“We have one standard and it’s excellence and we haven’t reached that standard,” Pennington said. “Every day that’s what we’re battling against — to play our best brand of football. It doesn’t matter the opponent. [Alderson Broaddus’] defense has played really well, offense has struggled to find its identity.”

In WVSU’s loss to Notre Dame, starting quarterback Donovan Riddick did not play and backup Drew Chance took the snaps. In the Yellow Jackets’ Sept. 18 win over Fairmont State, Riddick left the game with an injury in the first half. Pennington said he will be ready to play against Alderson Broaddus.

“He’ll be good to go this weekend and we’re looking forward to having Donavan back,” Pennington said. “He’s one of our captains. He’s one of our leaders.”

Rick Farlow covers sports. He can be reached at 304-348-5122 or Follow @FarlowRick on Twitter.