GWU eyeing pride against Warner
It may be their first year on the gridiron but Gardner-Webb head football coach Carroll McCray is not looking past anything when the Runnin’ Bulldogs host Warner (Fla.) at 1:30 p.m.
In fact, after suffering three consecutive losses after a 4-1 start, the Runnin’ Bulldogs might be looking to re-establish a little pride in the program that started the season with so much promise.
“We are working hard to get pride and make it mean something to play here,” McCray said.
Through the first eight games of the season, there have been times when the offense has clicked — including scoring 50 or more points twice — and times when the defense has been the deciding factor — including holding a pair of nationally-ranked teams to an average of 12 points.
The issue has been neither facets have clicked at the same time.
Granted, it has been the defense that has kept the Runnin’ Bulldogs in more games than the offense has.
“You look at the league and we have some high-powered offenses,” McCray said. “If you can have a real good defense, you have a chance to be productive.”
But now the focus turns to getting pride back and that paints a target on the Royals.
In their first season with football in The Sun Conference, Warner has struggled to an 0-9 start with an offense that has been shutout three times and held to single-digits three more. In all, the Royals average 7 points per game and just 60 yards rushing.
The Royals bring a defense that has also struggled, giving up an average of 43 points per game. Additionally, Warner’s defense has had difficulty stopping the pass and the run. Opponents are getting 229 yards rushing and 195 yards in the air against the Royals.
Individually, Warner is led by Marcel Jenkins and his 39 yards on the ground per game. Quarterback Andrew Rodriguez does have an efficiency rating of 95.5 but has only completed 54 percent of his passes for an average of 111 yards. His favorite target has been Vernnis Jenkins, Keithlin Patrick and Trey Schley.
Schley has some history with the Runnin’ Bulldogs after playing tight end for Gardner-Webb in 2010 and 2011. Schley had a pair of touchdown receptions in a 2011 homecoming win over Charleston Southern.
Another familiar face is Warner defensive coordinator Tony Pierce who was GWU’s defensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012.
But, after three straight losses, the Runnin’ Bulldogs are more focused on themselves than on the Royals.
“We’re just back to the drawing board to look at fundamental things that we need to do well,” McCray said. “There is a lot of work to do to improve.”
• GAME NOTES: The Runnin’ Bulldogs ended October with three losses, allowing 119 points and scoring just 58. Since 2010, GWU is 5-9 in October … Gardner-Webb will be the fifth NCAA Division I FCS program the Royals will face this year … Warner has scored seven touchdowns in their nine games thus far this season … GWU linebacker Tanner Burch leads the Runnin’ Bulldogs with 74 total tackles this season. Over the last 17 games, Burch has a total of 187 tackles — an average of 11 per game.