WVC football: W.Va. State’s Long sees Elon as great opportunity’
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia State University inside linebacker Tyler Long has the right perspective when speaking of the Yellow Jackets playing back-to-back games against Football Championship Subdivision teams.
One week after the Yellow Jackets (1-1) dropped a 77-0 decision to Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member North Carolina A&T, they pay a visit to Southern Conference team Elon (1-1) in a 3 p.m. contest on Saturday at Rhodes Stadium.
Last season, the Phoenix handed eventual West Virginia Conference champion Concord a 42-10 defeat in the second week of the season.
"I look at it as a great opportunity," said Long, a senior and former Riverside High School standout. "We're going down there and I'm getting the chance to play against great talent, to see exactly where I stack up. To see how far I've come in my athletic ability, so see where I stand compared to these guys. That's how I approach it."
Long enters the third game of his senior season with 157 career tackles, including 14.5 for 53 yards in losses and five sacks.
He had 10 tackles against the Aggies last week.
"I don't look at it as them being bigger or better, I just look at it as they have 11 guys on the field," he said. "I feel I can run and tackle and play as well as anybody else."
State received $30,000 for last week's visit to A&T and will receive $40,000 for Saturday's game against Elon.
Missed blocking assignments, defensive lapses and turnovers cost State early in last week's defeat. While the odds are stacked heavily in Elon's favor, Coach Earl Monroe said he expects his team to give a better showing, even though he believes Elon is better than the Aggies.
North Carolina A&T is banned from postseason play this year as part of sanctions that were handed down by the NCAA for poor Academic Progress Rate showings.
This is State's final regular-season non-conference game before eight consecutive WVC games beginning with Concord at Lakin Field on Sept. 22.
"It'll be a big difference," said Long, who had never played back-to-back FCS teams during his career (2009-12). "Now, you're playing against 11 great athletes. Once we come back in the conference, it'll be sprinkled with a few athletes.
"It's like a high school team playing small colleges before they go play back at the high school level. I feel after we play these two games, we'll be a whole lot better in our conference."
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STATE AVOIDED any significant injuries against the Phoenix last week, and hope the same can be said for Saturday's meeting.
Sophomore linebacker T.J. Austin won't suit up against Elon because of a tender hamstring, marking the only injury State suffered in last week's trip.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.