Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 19, 2013

Bulldogs bring deceptive record to Bluefield

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — For the third week in a row, the Bluefield Rams will face an opponent that has one or fewer win coming into the game.

Bethel had zero and Belhaven had one. Both beat the Rams.

Union (1-5)  is up next. The Bulldogs from Kentucky have one win.

Bluefield College (0-6) head coach Ordell Walker has learned not to put much emphasis on the records of the teams in the MSC.

“I continue to learn that the records of the Mid-South Conference can be a mirage,” Walker said. “Bethel and Belhaven, which had zero wins and one win, were super talented teams and it is the same thing with Union when you watch them on film.

“You don’t see a one-win team, you see talent and a team that can present problems on both sides of the ball.”

Faith and Family Night will kick off tonight at Mitchell Stadium at 6:30 p.m.  An hour before the game Walker and players and coaches from Bluefield College will share the spiritual aspect of the school’s athletic programs with anyone would like to attend.

“It is a great time for friends and family to see the spiritual side of what we are trying to do with athletics as a whole, the department, not just football,” Walker said. “Then it is a great time to hang out so we will do a tailgate.

“Our parents will come, we will feed them. We just want to have a great, great night of competition and family and fellowship.”

Walker hopes to follow it up with success on the field, as the Rams look for a faster start and better ending in searching of Bluefield’s first win after 17 straight losses since resurrecting the program last season.

“I think a fast start is a key so we can get the crowd in the game and feed off of that momentum, I think that is really important,” said Walker, whose Rams will hit the road for three straight road games before ending the season at home on Nov. 16. “When you have a young team, it is nice to have an early confidence and so that comes from finding a way to make plays early in the game and guys will feed off the crowd.”

While Bluefield, which has allowed 45.3 points a game, while scoring 17.3, has played just one team with a winning record, the Bulldogs have beaten winless Virginia-Wise 24-17, but Union’s five losses are to teams with a combined record of 21-8.

“A big part of it is who they have been playing, they have been playing some really talented teams and defensively they have given up a lot of big plays so they do a lot of good things defensively,” Walker said. “It is kind of the same thing as Belhaven, they can go pretty good stretches of stopping people and then give up some huge plays and some breakdowns that can cost them.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs utilize a pair of quarterbacks — Chander Whittlesey (577 yards, 5 td, 47.4 pct) and Hogan Goodson (468, 2 td, 46.7) — while top targets include Domonique Jefferson (21-446, 6 td) and Jared Smith (15-225).

Leonard Dixon is a talented back, having run for 562 yards and four scores, and has 11 receptions for 134 yards for the Bulldogs, who are scoring 24.2 points a game.

“Offensively, they are really skilled, they have a very good running back, they play multiple quarterbacks and they have different strengths and that can present problems,” Walker said.

Frank Brooks leads the Bluefield defense with 40 tackles and three interceptions, while Harry Hollins has 3.5 tackles and two sacks.

Creating turnovers is something Walker is definitely hoping to see from his Rams.

“The one thing defensively we have to find a way to turn the ball over, when you offense is struggling and you have some inconsistencies, you have got to find a way to keep giving them the ball...,” Walker said. “Anything to help generate momentum and help the offense out and get some short fields for them.”

Union, which is led on defense by Ryan Shipley (65 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) and Jake Johnston (51, 6.5, 2), have surrendered 35.2 points a contest, including 42, 59 and 45 points in a trio of defeats.

They will face an offense that will look to get Marion Harris (402 yards, 2 td) back on track. He had 331 yards over a pair of weeks, but was limited to 10 in last week’s loss to Belhaven, which took away the outside perimeter game from the Rams.

“We have to establish our identity offensively, if they are going to take away the outside, we have to find a way to run the ball inside so we are really working hard at that in practice,” Walker said. “How do you find a way to be consistent without the huge negatives, and those are things as a coach you feel like you can’t control...

“It is consistency on offense, not shooting ourselves in the foot, even if we are not moving the ball we can’t kill ourselves.”

Ashten Dixon (459 yards, 3 td, 8 int, 44.3 pct), who struggled last week for the Rams, is expected to start at quarterback for the Rams. Opening game starter Josh Erby (285 yards, 2 td, 34.1 pct) came off the bench, connecting with Rodrell Smith on a scoring pass to pull the Rams within 9-7 in the second quarter. Belhaven eventually won 40-21.

Smith (20-257, 2 td), Richard Johnson (15-260, 3 td) and Matt Hollandsworth (10-173, 1 td) serve as a primary targets for the Rams.

“They (Erby to Smith) could be a really good combination,” Walker said. “He has a very strong arm and Rodrell has to be one of the fastest guys in this league, if he gets behind you, you are in trouble.”

Trying to overcome costly turnovers and mistakes could determine success or not against the Bulldogs, who defeated Bluefield last season 37-14.

“We continue to have stretches offensively, two or three drives in a row, where we just kind of self-destruct and the ball game gets out of hand,” Walker said. “We have to find a way to limit that and stop that.”

Bluefield will step out of the MSC next Saturday for a visit to Southern Virginia, and will then conclude the season with a trio of MSC teams that have a combined record of 13-4, all of whom are ranked among the top 21 NAIA teams in America.

—Contact Brian Woodson

bwoodson@bdtonline.com