WVC football: Shehl has UC defense near the top
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The cult following George Shehl had during his days at West Virginia University has since left him, but he's on track to live up to the expectations of his former coach and boss, Rich Rodriguez.
Shehl, the 29-year-old defensive coordinator at the University of Charleston, spent four of his formative years as a holder for the Mountaineers (2002-06).
Despite being listed as a defensive back, Shehl spent his time in Morgantown holding on extra points for the majority of the college career of current Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee.
He's moving toward his ultimate goal of becoming a coach, something that Rodriguez envisioned, telling a Daily Mail reporter in 2005: "... he's going to be a heck of a college coach someday."
The Golden Eagles' assistant coach and defensive coordinator brought former WVU assistant Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 stack to the University of Charleston.
In his second season with Pat Kirkland, UC's head coach and also a former WVU assistant, it's showing dividends.
The Golden Eagles (7-2, 4-2 West Virginia Conference) will take a No. 6 NCAA Division II overall defensive ranking into Saturday's 1 p.m. visit to Buckhannon to face WVC foe West Virginia Wesleyan (3-6, 2-4).
"Experience, that's the biggest thing," Shehl said. "We got better every game last year ... better within the system and they started to understand what we wanted them to do.
"For the most part, it's the same guys. It's more about letting them play."
Despite a loss to Glenville State last week that put a major dent in UC's postseason hopes, the defense has held strong.
In fact, the five teams ahead of UC in the defensive national rankings have a combined four defeats and are ranked in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25.
The top-ranked defense is Indiana (Pa.), which is 8-1 (ranked 14th in AFCA Poll), followed by West Alabama at 7-2 (ranked 21st), Tuskegee (Ala.) at 7-1 (ranked 23rd), New Haven (Conn.) at 8-0 (ranked 3rd) and Minnesota State-Mankato at 9-0 (ranked 6th).
The Golden Eagles were No. 25 in the poll last week, but the loss to Glenville dropped them out of the national rankings. They also dropped three spots in the Super Region One rankings. They were sixth, in line for the last spot as the top six teams in reach region earn playoff berths. However, they are now ninth and Shepherd took their spot at No. 6.
The offense has had its moments and averages 27 points per game - good for second in the conference. However, the Golden Eagles were outscored an average of 15-10 in their two losses (16-10 to Shepherd and 14-10 to Glenville).
Only twice has it given up more than 16 points this season - in the opener against Shaw (N.C.) and in a road win over nationally ranked UNC Pembroke.
This week it faces Wesleyan at its Buckhannon campus. The Bobcats gave Joe Montana's son a place to play, but not necessarily a place to win.
Nate Montana's father is the Hall of Fame quarterback that led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles.
Wesleyan ended a three-game losing streak with a 42-14 victory against W.Va. State at Institute. However, the Bobcats lost their first three games, averaging just 16.33 points. They picked it up on their last three, averaging 31.6, but losing to Fairmont State and Glenville State before the win over State.
Montana is 169-of-330 for 1,994 yards with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions.
The University of Charleston defense is led in tackles by Justin Avery with 49. Defensive end Jeff Green has 45 stops and 10 sacks.
The Golden Eagles' secondary, which is Shehl's specialty, has helped UC to the top spot in the WVC in pass defense, giving up just 158 yards per game. Wesleyan comes in with the conference's top pass offense at 310.7 yards per contest.
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WEST VIRGINIA STATE will try to get back on the winning track at 1 p.m. Saturday when it faces Fairmont State at Duvall-Rosier Field.
The Yellow Jackets (2-7, 1-5 WVC) are on a four-game losing streak and have given up an average of 41 points during the streak.
Fairmont State (3-5, 3-3) has fared somewhat better until a 41-10 defeat at Concord last weekend. The Falcons haven't lost at home this season, earning victories over West Liberty (25-20), West Virginia Wesleyan (49-32) and Seton Hill (54-47).
Former Keyser star Matt Wilmer has shone for the Falcons, who are third in the WVC in kickoff and punt returns thanks to the senior wide receiver. Wilmer averages 14.5 yards per punt return and 24.1 yards per kickoff return, with one brought back 100 yards for a touchdown.
He is second on the team in receiving with 27 catches for 421 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.