Game two brings West Virginia Tech to town

Michael Casagrande

On paper, Western looks to be a heavy favorite going into Saturday’s matchup with West Virginia Tech.

The Toppers (1-0) have won 11 straight games, including a 51-3 drubbing of the NAIA’s Union on Aug. 28. And again they will face a team that competes below the I-AA level.

Despite having almost every statistic on his side, coach David Elson is hesitant about taking the Division II Golden Bears lightly.

“They concern me because they really are athletic,” Elson said. “They have a lot of junior college transfers that are talented. Their top two offensive producers are back, and I think they have some confidence and momentum going.”

The momentum comes from the Golden Bear’s 21-17 season opening victory against Charleston (W. Va.) on Aug. 30. Tech running back Kalem McRae is a threat coming out of the backfield. He racked up 188 yards on 40 rushes against Charleston, earning West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Offensive Player of the Week.

“He is a very fast back,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said about McRae. “He’s not a power running back but he is a slasher, and if he gets out in the open field, he can hurt us.”

The running game may be proficient, but Golden Bear quarterback Phil Reed struggled in the season opener. Reed completed seven passes on 25 attempts for 118 yards.

West Virginia Tech returns 11 starters from last season’s team that went 6-5 and finished third in the WVIAC.

“They’ve just got some good players, some big linebackers,” freshman quarterback Justin Haddix said. “But I think we are ready to go.”

In 2002, the Golden Bears didn’t fare very well against I-AA opponents. In three losses, Tech was outscored 186-30.

Kentucky State was the only Division II opponent Western faced last season. The Toppers blanked the Thoroughbreds 49-0 in its home opener Sept. 7.

Veals to return

Senior free safety and team captain Antonio Veals will return to the field Saturday after serving a one game suspension. Veals missed the Union game Sept. 28 for violating team rules

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected].