Mountain Lions draw beat on West Virginia State

ATHENS — The past week was historic one for Concord University football, but it’s now in the past. This Saturday, Concord’s Mountain Lions (6-1) travel to face the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets (4-3) in Institute.

The buzz was strong after CU defeated Charleston 68-60 last Saturday in Athens – the most combined points scored in a Mountain East football game in the league’s nine-year history.

Directed by quarterback Jack Mangel, the Athenians set new single-game school records for total yards (735), plays (85), first downs (35), and passing touchdowns (6).

“I’m just proud of our guys’ effort,” Cocnord head coach Dave Walker said on Saturday evening. “Our guys, they just kept battling, kept fighting.”

He added during Wednesday’s weekly press conference, “There are alumni and fans, they’re proud of what we’re doing, obviously. I’m happy for those guys. The fact that we had guys there until the end, cheering for us and stuff, that was pretty neat to see.”

“I know our guys are pretty happy, and proud of the work they’re putting in,” he said. Looking ahead, he said, “They’ve got to keep working, and don’t get caught up too much in what we did yesterday. We’ve got to focus on the day, and try to get better every day.”

“It’s time to get back to work. It’s had its moment, and it’s on to the next task at hand.”

Walker said about Dickerson Stadium, “It’s a tough place to play. They’ve got a really good team; they’re really talented.

“I feel like it’s going to be like last week. It’s probably going to come down and be another one-possession game. We’re just going to have to play and overcome adversity again.”

“Travel only becomes an issue if you make it an issue,” he said. “You have to get rest the night before, you have to eat well … and prepare well and, hopefully, play well.”

Mountain Lions running back Thurlow Wilkins picked up a national player of the week honor after running for 279 yards and four touchdowns against Charleston.

Wilkins said on Saturday, “This game showed me, you never give up. You never know what the outcome (will) be. We pulled that ‘dub’,” referring to the “W” for the win.

He said the Concord offensive line “did a great job. I told them, ‘Keep pushin’. As long as you push ‘em, I’ll push with you.’”

In the receiving corps, Jarod Bowie caught the football 10 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns while Kris Copeland racked up 131 yards and two scores on seven receptions.

On Wednesday, Walker again mentioned the slim margin of victory for Concord this fall, in games that could have easily turned out to be defeats.

“They’ve definitely gotten comfortable being uncomfortable,” Walker said. “Those guys kept battling and they did what they had to do at the end to come out on top.”

The Concord line did not allow a sack last weekend, but West Virginia State has bagged 22 sacks this season, second most in the conference.

The Yellow Jackets, who are 3-1 at home this season, have a top-drawer quarterback in senior Donovan Riddick. This year he has already thrown for 1,339 yards and 11 touchdowns and has been picked off only three times.

Walker said, “Their quarterback is a fantastic player, and he can beat you with his arm and his legs. … We’ve got to be fundamentally sound … and see what happens on Saturday.”

“We’ve got to be able to contain their quarterback a little bit (and) slow him down a little bit,” the CU coach said.

“And, offensively, we need to do what we do, and be solid in the kicking game as well.”

“We can’t give up big plays. We gave up way too many big plays last week,” he said. “You gotta make them drive the field, and make them play mistake-free. We can’t just give them easy ones. If we do that, I think we’ve got a shot.”

West Virginia State’s head coach, John Pennington, was a Concord assistant coach from 2011-14, in charge of special teams and wide receivers. Paul Price, Walker’s predecessor as CU head coach, is in his third season on Pennington’s staff as State’s special teams coordinator and linebacker coach.

Walker said, “I have all the respect in the world for what they’re doing and what they have. Last year, we jumped out on them, and they came back and beat us. They’re very well coached, and their kids play really hard, and it’s going to be a tough matchup.

“Another week in the MEC, you know?”

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