If there was one positive the West Virginia State football team could take away from its loss last Saturday to the University of Charleston, it’s that the Yellow Jackets had a chance to pick themselves back up the next week.
WVSU coach John Pennington said that, if his team could play at Wheeling University earlier than Saturday’s noon kickoff, it would. The Yellow Jackets (6-3, 6-2 Mountain East) wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible.
“Sunday night, we got some cars out and shined lights on the [practice] field,” Pennington said. “We wanted to practice no matter what. We had to get the taste out of our mouths and play some football.”
The Yellow Jackets face a Wheeling team that has struggled mightily in its first full season in the Mountain East Conference. The Cardinals (0-9, 0-8 MEC) are 10th in the 11-team league in scoring (16.7 points per game) and last in scoring defense (39.6 points allowed per game). They held an early 14-point lead on Glenville State last week but allowed the Pioneers to score 24 unanswered points to pull away for a 24-14 win.
Still, Pennington said he knows it likely won’t be easy for the Yellow Jackets in Wheeling. With several close games under their belts, it hasn’t been easy for them for much of the season.
“[The Glenville game] shows you that they’re not only getting better, but they’re hungry to get that first win,” Pennington said. “We know we haven’t blown anybody out and we know that any team can play us. We’re locked in to trying to find a way to win.”
Pennington is impressed with Wheeling defensive end Brandon Munoz, who is tied for third in the MEC with six sacks, and feels the Cardinals’ secondary is pretty stout. And while Wheeling isn’t very good at running the football — 10th in the MEC with 66.7 yards per game — the Yellow Jackets haven’t been very good at stopping the run. They’re 10th in the MEC, ahead of only Wheeling, in allowing 218.7 yards per game.
Pennington wants to see the mental toughness that his team has exhibited much of this season to push its way back to the forefront for the final two games of West Virginia State’s regular season. It’s a trait that has served them well so far.
“We’ve been tough all year and we were tough [last] Saturday,” Pennington said. “We let some things get to us that normally didn’t, and we need to make sure that we can not let that happen anymore, and that’s one of the staples of our program.”