Road challenges loom for GWU
Football coaches in the Big South Conference would rather play at home than on the road.
Of course that seems like a “no kidding” statement but travel is inevitable with college football.
For Gardner-Webb, this season has provided numerous challenges for head coach Carroll McCray, not the least of which is playing on the road.
With the exception of a win over Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C. on Sept. 21, the Runnin’ Bulldogs are 0-3 away from Spangler Stadium.
“I think that’s why they call it home field advantage,” McCray said.
Looking at the numbers, being away from home has had a huge impact for Gardner-Webb (5-4, 0-2 Big South) as they prepare to travel to Lexington, Va. to face VMI at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Offensively, the Runnin’ Bulldogs average seven points per game on the road when you take out the 51-point performance in a road loss at Charlotte. That is in stark contrast to the over 30 points per game they average at Boiling Springs.
Defensively, Gardner-Webb has given up over 30 points on the road compared to just under 20 points they have surrendered at home.
“As you play on the road, each place you go provides distractions,” McCray said. “It can go for you or against you because you face those different challenges each week.”
Those distractions are well-known by different coaches in the conference.
You have the fact of travel time, staying in a hotel and eating away from home.
“Young men sometimes get distracted from the different environment,” said Liberty head coach Turner Gill. “It’s not the same surroundings but it is like anything in life and, as young people, we try to keep them on track.”
That leaves a burden on the coaching staff to keep things as normal as possible with regards to practice and scheduling.
“We try to make it as close to the same schedule as we can,” said VMI head coach Sparky Woods. “You hope you have enough maturity on your team to overcome that.”
However, there is a maturity factor for players in dealing with the rigors of traveling and playing away from their home on Saturdays.
“We try to keep things as normal as possible,” McCray said. “But every time you break a routine, it can have an impact and that is something we are trying to grow through.”
The one difference for Gardner-Webb playing on the road came against Wofford.
In that lone road win, McCray took the team to Spartanburg on Saturday as opposed to normal road travel when the team arrives on Friday.
The end result was the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ second consecutive win over a nationally ranked opponent.
So, the question was posed to McCray about traveling to Lexington this week on Saturday instead of Friday.
“I thought about it but I don’t think we can make it for a 1 p.m. kick,” McCray joked.