Mountain East Conference: Salukis best UC has 'ever played'
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The University of Charleston has beaten a Football Championship Series team only once in eight tries since the school started a football program in 2003.
The 27-14 victory over Austin Peay in 2005 was the first win in the first of six seasons Tony DeMeo would serve as head coach of the fledgling program.
Fast-forward to Saturday when the Golden Eagles (0-1) visit FCS team Southern Illinois (0-2) for a 3 p.m. game at Saluki Stadium.
"By far the best team the University of Charleston has ever played," said third-year Coach Pat Kirkland, fully aware of the task that lies ahead of his outmanned team. "You can see it on film. They're very talented. Our goal is to get better at what we do. I expect us to go there and compete at a very high level."
It has been seven years since UC last played a FCS team - a 49-10 defeat to Austin Peay on Oct. 28, 2006 - and the Division II program has been outscored an average of 32.6-10.4 in its eight games against that level of competition.
Saturday offers yet another level for UC, which started the 2013 season last week with a 44-14 loss at Shaw University.
The Salukis' winless record is deceiving, considering Coach Dale Lennon's squad opened the season with an eight-point loss to Big Ten member Illinois after trailing the Illini 25-7 at halftime.
Last week at Saluki Stadium, Southern Illinois dropped a 40-37 double-overtime decision to 14th-ranked Eastern Illinois.
As for UC, Shaw University rolled up 520 yards of total offense led by running back Marquise Grizzle, who ran for 147 yards on 26 carries. The Shaw passing offense accounted for 276 yards on 24-of-31 passing and four touchdowns.
The Salukis, meanwhile, have run 166 plays in two games, with 57 percent of those through the air. In two games, fifth-year senior quarterback Kory Faulkner - who has started 20 consecutive games - is 53-of-90 for 606 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Golden Eagles, who intercepted 15 passes in 11 games last season, failed to register a pick last week. They also watched Shaw finish 11-of-16 on third-down conversions.
"We were doing great on first and second down and had a lot of busts on third down," Kirkland said. "We didn't have the penalties, but we couldn't get off the field on third down. They ran a total of 84 plays and we ran 50. They had 34 more opportunities to do something with the football ... pretty much a recipe for disaster."
Charleston quarterback John Knox acknowledged the hill his team has to climb this week, but said there is no turning back.
"They're a good team, very disciplined, bit, athletic," he said. "We just have to bring our 'A' game. They best believe we're taking it straight to them, no fear in our hearts. They practice just like we practice."
WEST VIRGINIA STATE Coach Jon Anderson will seek his first career victory on Saturday when the Yellow Jackets travel to Callaghan Stadium in Athens for a 1 p.m. Mountain East Conference meeting with Concord (1-0).
The Mountain Lions are one of four MEC teams to open the season with a victory, earning an 18-10 verdict at 23rd-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne. Concord took an 11-0 halftime lead, beginning with a 34-yard field goal by former Winfield kicker Andy Ellington, before holding off the Bears.
The Yellow Jackets struggled to score in a season-opening 31-13 loss at Lock Haven (Pa.), but outgained the Bald Eagles 240-63 at halftime. The victory was just the second in the last 54 games for Lock Haven.
Running back LeFloyd Phillips finished with a career-high 107 yards on 26 carries and transfer quarterback Tyler Seals was 20-of-38 for 206 yards, and had seven passes dropped.
State also was penalized 14 times for 108 yards.
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THE GAME AGAINST Southern Illinois didn't appear on Charleston's schedule until the Golden Eagles had to scramble for an opponent.
UC was expected to play its return game against St. Joseph, but the Pumas pulled out assuming the Golden Eagles would fill the date with an opponent in its new league.
St. Joseph filled the date with Siena Heights (Mich.), an NAIA Division I school.
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FORMER UC assistant Jason Vrable is in his first season serving as the offensive quality control coach for the Buffalo Bills in the NFL.
Vrable spent two seasons at Syracuse University with current Bills coach Doug Marrone before moving to UC in 2011.