CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every game is important, as most coaches will attest, but Concord's Mountain East Conference visit to the University of Charleston on Saturday means a little more.
The winner of Saturday's 1 p.m. game at University of Charleston Stadium will stay in the race for the MEC championship, while the loser will be facing an uphill battle in the final three weeks of the season.
The Golden Eagles (4-3, 4-1 MEC) have games remaining at West Liberty, vs. Fairmont State and at Urbana. The Mountain Lions (5-2, 4-1) host UVa-Wise before a visit to Concord and a home game against ninth-ranked Shepherd closes out the season. Shepherd, the ninth-ranked team in the American Football Coaches' Association Poll, is the only unbeaten team in the MEC and already owns a 28-9 win over Charleston.
The Mountain Lions averaged 25.3 points per game, providing a challenge for the resurgent UC defense. Coach Pat Kirkland's Golden Eagles are giving up 24.1 points per game but have surrendered only 19 points and a total of 374 yards combined in wins over Glenville and W.Va. State.
In fact, against Shepherd three weeks ago, UC allowed the Rams to reach Golden Eagles' territory just three times in the first half before Shepherd scored on three of its first five possessions of the second half.
The UC defense spent a lot of the second half on the field with Shepherd holding the ball for 5:03 longer than the Golden Eagles in the final 30 minutes.
"Our defense got worn down," Kirkland said. "We got worn down and gave them really two long drives in a row. It was the lack of depth ... we didn't have it."
The issue for UC is depth on the offensive line, where injuries have piled up beginning before the season opener at Shaw.
The Golden Eagles have played without sophomore Zach Erb and freshman Michael Farhat, both of whom were lost for the season before it began. Starting offensive lineman Gaberiel Pou and sophomore Danilo Morales have missed the last two games.
Erb and Farhat earn a redshirt season, which should strengthen UC's line in 2014.