Both West Virginia State and the University of Charleston’s football teams spent this week healing wounds from the week previous. The Yellow Jackets and Golden Eagles both suffered losses that hurt their respective standings in the Mountain East Conference.
After weeks of winning close games, State ended up on the wrong end of one, a 35-31 setback to Urbana. UC’s loss was never close, a 42-7 defeat at the hands of MEC newbie Frostburg State.
Now Charleston (4-3, 3-3 MEC) will try to bounce back from its first losing streak of the year — the FSU loss was the Golden Eagles’ second straight — and WVSU (5-2, 5-1 MEC) will try to bounce back from its first conference loss of 2019. UC gets a 2 p.m. Saturday homecoming date with Glenville State, while WVSU heads to West Virginia Wesleyan for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
After the Urbana loss, State coach John Pennington had every member of the program, coaches and players, self-evaluate and come to him with their results. Among the trends in the responses, he really liked the team’s grit and fight. He didn’t like the mistakes that drew penalty flags, nor was he happy with the way the Yellow Jackets seemed to start games off slowly.
So Pennington decided to get the competitive juices flowing early this week, in practice and even in meetings.
“We’ve been starting meetings with paper, rock, scissors,” he said. “Any kind of competition at the beginning part of practice or meetings. Our plan was let’s do competitive things in practices, meetings. Will it work? I don’t know, but that’s our plan.”
West Virginia Wesleyan (1-6, 1-5 MEC) has lost its last three games by an average margin of more than 34 points. Yet Pennington isn’t going to take the team lightly.
“Their O-line and D-line are really good,” Pennington said. “We’re not big enough yet. We were a little outmatched the last two weeks and Wesleyan’s not that far off in terms of their lines.”
The Golden Eagles have been one of the MEC’s most potent offenses this season. They scored 51 and 53 points, respectively, in their two games prior to the trip to Frostburg. Yet they could muster just one touchdown against the Bobcats.
The drastic swing of the pendulum surprised UC coach Pat Kirkland a little, but he could point to at least a couple of culprits.
“We had five turnovers, they had zero,” Kirkland said. “That’s going to kill your productivity.”
Frostburg turned two of those turnovers into touchdowns.
Next on the slate is Glenville State (4-3, 3-3 MEC), which trounced Wesleyan 42-7 last week. The Pioneers have yet to win two games in a row this season, but Kirkland said Glenville will be a tough homecoming opponent.
“They’re good up front, but they’re sound up front,” he said. “That means it’s tough to get to the quarterback immediately where you can attack their protections. You might win some one-on-one battles, but they’re sound at what they do and the quarterback knows how to get rid of the football quick.”