CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State University football team visits Fairmont State 1 p.m. Saturday for a Mountain East Conference battle, but the opponent isn't exactly what State Coach Jon Anderson is focused on.
"I'm seeing progress from a big picture view," said Anderson, whose team has scored only 16 points in three games since he coached his first contest on Sept. 7 at Lock Haven, Pa. "I'm not frustrated in the least. That doesn't mean I'm satisfied with losing or that losing is OK. At the end of the day, that's what we're judged on."
The Yellow Jackets have not won a football game since Sept. 29, 2012 when they earned a 21-13 win at Seton Hill, putting their current losing streak at nine games. Their last home victory came in the 2012 opener in a 34-31 verdict over Johnson C. Smith. Not all of those losses belong to Anderson, who replaced Earl Monroe this season.
Anderson's first defeat, however, does. It was a 31-13 loss at Lock Haven which was just the second victory in the last 53 games for the Bald Eagles. Since then, State dropped a 36-3 decision at Concord and a 9-0 home verdict against West Liberty.
The Yellow Jackets weren't out of the game against West Liberty, recovering a fumble at the Hilltopper 20 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
However, a Tyler Seals pass was intercepted in the end zone to thwart the scoring opportunity.
A look deeper inside the numbers indicates that not everything is as dreary as the weather was for last weekend's shutout loss.
The Yellow Jackets have outgained their opponents on the ground 332-318 and have had two more plays (207-205) than their foes. State also is trailing in time of possession by only 26 seconds.
However, they are just 1-for-7 on touchdowns in the red zone, have 38 penalties in three games and have completed barely 50 percent of their pass attempts (43-80).
"We have to score some points," said Anderson, whose team has only four fewer first downs (48-44) than its opponents. "We have to find a way to put some drives together and find a way to score touchdowns when we're in the red zone.
"Just like every offensive team, you get in the red zone, the field shrinks, there's less to defend. We need to relax."
State is last in the MEC in scoring offense, but sixth in rushing offense with 110.7 per game, leading Urbana, Concord, Fairmont State, W.Va. Wesleyan and UVa-Wise. The Yellow Jackets also have the conference's second-best rush defense, trailing only Shepherd.
Leading the State ground game is senior LeFloyd Phillips, who is seventh in the league with 207 yards rushing. Former Lincoln County High School standout Josh Wade is 15th in the MEC in rushing with 92 yards.
Where State has made an immediate impact is on defense.
Sophomore defensive back William Merritt is the team's leading tackler with 33 stops - tied for third in the MEC. Former Wayne High School standout Dwight Blankenship is tied for the team lead in sacks with two.
Their task is much larger this week against the Falcons (1-2, 0-2 MEC), who are coming off a humbling 31-14 road loss to Glenville State on Thursday.
The Falcons are led in rushing by senior Dawrence Roberts, whose 214 yards is sixth in the MEC.