CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The University of Charleston will seek to complete its second consecutive seven-win season on Saturday when it visits Mountain East Conference foe Urbana for their first meeting during Senior Day at Urbana University Stadium.
The Golden Eagles (6-4, 6-2 MEC) haven't been strangers to success, winning at least seven games five times since the former Morris Harvey College renewed football in 2003.
Three of those seasons belong to Tony DeMeo, whose teams from 2007-09 went 8-3, 7-4 and 9-2 respectively but failed to make the playoffs.
This year's UC team won't reach the postseason - only unbeaten Shepherd at No. 1 is in the top six of the NCAA Division II Super Region One rankings. However, Charleston overcame three losses in its first five games and a disheartening overtime defeat at home to Concord to put itself in a position for a seven-win campaign.
Coach Pat Kirkland's Golden Eagles have given up a combined 37 points in the last five games and more than nine just once during that stretch.
The Golden Eagles' running game has been their catalyst under Kirkland. This season, Northern Illinois transfer Leighton Settle leads the way with 735 yards on 141 carries, followed by sophomore all-purpose offensive threat John Knox (122-547) and junior running back C.J. Stallworth (75-405) lead the conference's second-best rushing attack.
Senior quarterback Maurice Leak has completed 110-of-188 passes for 922 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. In rare passing opportunities, Knox has completed 18 of his 32 pass attempts for 225 yards with three scores and one interception.
The high-powered offense of Urbana (6-4, 6-2) sputtered last week at Buckhannon against W.Va. Wesleyan. The Blue Knights had scored 32 or more points in three consecutive contests - including a 37-35 loss to Football Championship Subdivision member Southeast Missouri State.
However, it managed just 13 points against the Bobcats, who are still giving up 32 points per game after that victory.
The unquestioned offensive leader for Urbana is quarterback D.J. Mendenhall, who was named a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, awarded to the player named the nation's best player in NCAA Division II.
He has thrown for 2,970 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, completing 55.7 percent (225-404) of his passes. Also, four of his receivers have at least 29 receptions and 28 of those scores led by Joe Webb. The 6-foot, 195-pound senior has 72 receptions for 1,050 yards and a league-leading 12 touchdowns.
Charleston has the league's second-ranked pass defense, giving up 161.6 yards per game - or 142.5 yards fewer than Urbana averages.
WEST VIRGINIA STATE will try to avoid its second winless season in four years when the Yellow Jackets (0-10, 0-9) entertain Glenville State (5-5, 4-4).
Coach Jon Anderson's first season with State began with Lock Haven defeating the Jackets for only its second win in the last 54 games.