Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MOUNTAIN EAST CONFERENCE FOOTBALL ; Offensive Line Paves the Way for UC

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MOUNTAIN EAST CONFERENCE FOOTBALL ; Offensive Line Paves the Way for UC

Article excerpt

When they head to the line of scrimmage and see a defense that is loading the box with seven or eight players - knowing that Charleston wants to run the ball - that's the moment the Golden Eagles' offensive linemen live for. It becomes the biggest challenge, to continue running the ball consistently well even when a team knows that, more often than not, the opponent is going to run the ball.

"We take a lot of pride in making sure our backs can get those tough yards like that, offensive lineman Justin Johnson said. "I think we're the best offensive line in the conference. Teams play us and they know that, so you see them start to put more guys in the box and our goal is to beat as many guys as they throw at us every snap.

Charleston leads the Mountain East Conference in rushing, gaining 203 yards per game on the ground, and is coming off a performance in which it gained 298 yards on 53 carries to pick up its first victory of the season, defeating West Virginia State last week. For the season, UC is running the ball nearly 46 times per game, averaging 4.4 yards per carry - and a good bit of the credit for that is due to the offensive line and the way it has helped to pave the way for the likes of Tevion Cappe, Marvin Elam and Vernard Roberts in the talented UC backfield.

"With the guys we have up front, we know we can still run the ball even if they know what's coming, Charleston coach Pat Kirkland said. "That's not an easy thing to do. They're doing a great job and we put a lot on their plate.

One thing that makes Charleston's offensive line as effective as it has been is the chemistry the players share.

Up front, the Golden Eagles start two seniors, a junior and two sophomores. Four of the five started games together last year.

Senior guards Johnson and Zach Erb were both first-team all-MEC picks a year ago and have continued to be the leaders of the group. …

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