GWU, Presbyterian eyeing next season in final game
While there are no titles or playoff berths on the line, Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian both have things to play for.
Some of it may be pride or a little bragging right but, the stakes carry over into next year when the two teams clash at 1 p.m. Saturday in Clinton, S.C.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (6-5, 1-3 Big South) are hoping to close out the first season under head coach Carroll McCray with a winning record.
Unfortunately, they have to do that on the road, where Gardner-Webb has been less-than-spectacular.
"We have not been a very good road team and we are trying to get Gardner-Webb better as we go on the road," McCray said.
That's not to say the task is any easier for Blue Hose head coach Harold Nichols.
Presbyterian (3-7, 1-3 Big South) to avoid the conference cellar and a win over the Runnin' Bulldogs would secure fourth-place in the conference.
But, the Blue Hose enter the last game of the regular season with a passing offense ranking next-to-last in the Big South, averaging 177 yards per game. Running the football is a better prospect as Presbyterian is fourth in the conference with an average of 148 yards on the ground per game.
The Runnin' Bulldogs, on the other hand, may be licking their defensive chops — ranking first in rushing defense by allowing just 121.1 yards per game and first in pass defense, giving up only 175.3 yards per game.
It spells of offensive woes for the Blue Hose and defensive rejoicing for Gardner-Webb.
"It will be a real challenge for our offensive line to run the ball and even pass the football because of their front seven," Nichols said.
The defense will have to keep an eye on Presbyterian junior wide receiver Jeremiah McKie. McKie is eighth in the conference with 44.8 yards receiving per game.
But, on the other hand, Gardner-Webb redshirt junior Kenny Cook leads the Big South with 84.6 yards per game. He and junior running back Juanne Blount are tied for fifth in the conference in touchdowns with eight.
"We have to identify where Kenny Cook is and Juanne Blount has had a great year," Nichols said. "They create formations and seams that can really put you in a bind."
Stats aside, the biggest thing on the line is momentum going into next year.
"I think there is plenty for us to play for," McCray said. "In growing our team, we have things we are trying to achieve and it takes some focus and maturity to play on the road."