CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coaches don't like phrases like "do or die," and "make or break."
That's why University of Charleston football Coach Pat Kirkland doesn't want to lump this weekend's visit to UNC Pembroke (5-1) into either category.
Make no mistake, however, that the second-year coach isn't just trying to walk a fine line between preparing his team and putting too much pressure on them entering the 2 p.m. Saturday contest at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
"It's a big game, no question," said Kirkland, whose Golden Eagles' two losses in their last 10 games were at UC Stadium to Shepherd two weeks ago (16-10), and Pembroke last year (52-14). "I don't think it's make or break, we still have a lot of season to go, we're just at the midway point. We're playing a good football team, they have one loss in the first game of the season and that was to the No. 3 team in the country (Winston-Salem State), 28-23."
Some of the current Golden Eagles (5-1) already have experienced being on a 9-2 team and missing the playoffs because of a non-conference result.
That 2009 UC team went 9-2 and missed the playoffs after back-to-back West Virginia Conference losses in weeks nine and 10. That Golden Eagles' team wasn't helped by a non-conference win over a struggling Tusculum squad.
The circumstances are similar three years later, but not quite the same. This time the Golden Eagles' only loss is to Shepherd - one of the two best teams on their schedule. The other one is Pembroke, which hasn't lost since Sept. 1.
"Absolutely (make or break), there's no question about that," said senior defensive end Jeff Green, who leads the team in sacks with eight.
"For us, this is when the playoffs start. What we all learned and what we all know, is that 9-2 doesn't get you into the playoffs. It's a shame we lost to Shepherd, but the truth is we're not in the driver's seat anymore. Now we can only control so many things."
The Braves are No. 24 in the NCAA Division II rankings with five consecutive victories.
In last year's 38-point rout of the Golden Eagles - which stands as the worst loss in Kirkland's tenure at UC - Pembroke quarterback Luke Charles was 22-of-26 for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Donald Britt torched the UC secondary for four catches, 108 yards and a touchdown.