This week, it’s the University of Charleston football team’s turn for a nice, long road trip. Oh, West Virginia State’s football team is on the road, too. It’s just a shorter jaunt than last week’s.
The Golden Eagles get their chance at a Football Championship Subdivision foe when they visit Valparaiso in Indiana at 2 p.m. (ESPN+). The Yellow Jackets follow last week’s FCS opportunity against Southeast Missouri State with a trip to Concord for a noon kickoff (WVVA.com).
West Virginia State coach John Pennington said his Yellow Jackets (2-1, 2-0 Mountain East Conference) were facing an uphill battle from the start last week, with a nationally ranked FCS team on the other sideline. That showed in a 56-10 loss, but Pennington said the experience of playing a team at that level and the chance to bond on the trip was worth it.
Still, he added, the players appreciate the opportunity to play a more familiar foe this week in the Mountain Lions (0-3, 0-3 MEC).
“To be honest, the first three games, there was a lot of unfamiliarity,” Pennington said. “Frostburg is brand new, Glenville had a whole new coaching staff and, obviously Southeast Missouri. We know that Concord is a very good team that’s kind of like a wounded animal.”
The Mountain Lions took Glenville State to overtime last week before falling 27-20, and the Yellow Jackets bested the Pioneers two weeks ago by just three points. Both of State’s victories have come by a field goal, and Pennington knows that’s probably how its going to be for most of the MEC schedule. Wins will be close, but his team will know how to claw its way to them.
“We have to get out there and compete every week,” he said. “We’re not going to get off the bus and beat anyone with how we look. [Concord is] well-coached and [coach] Paul Price is one of the toughest people I’ve met and it shows in how they play. They rip the ball out and hit extremely hard.”
UC (2-1, 2-1 MEC) knows plenty about close games. Every game the Golden Eagles have played this season has been decided by eight or fewer points. They didn’t let a loss at Urbana two weeks ago linger, beating West Virginia Wesleyan 34-29 on the strength of 442 passing yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Brant Grisel.
“Brant’s doing a great job,” UC coach Pat Kirkland said. “The most impressive thing people don’t see is what he’s doing during the week. He really studies film and puts the time in on a daily basis.“
Kirkland has one thing he definitely wants his team to work on. The Golden Eagles start out great, outscoring opponents in the first half by a combined score of 72-17. The second half is another matter, where opponents are outscoring UC 79-24.
“We talk about it,” Kirkland said. “The players are fully aware of it, the coaches are fully aware of it. This would be a great week to put four quarters consistently together.”
UC might be able to get a little more out of its running game Saturday versus the Crusaders (0-3), who are allowing an average of 258 rushing yards per game.