By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Cumberland Univer-sity football is infamous for its 222-0 loss to Georgia Tech way back in 1916.
Mike Gravier isn’t expecting anything close to that today when the Bluefield College Rams make their last road trip of the season, a six-hour voyage to Lebanon, Tenn., to face the Bulldogs. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
While Bluefield (0-9, 0-4) is still seeking its first win since 1941, the Bulldogs (6-3, 2-2) have been ranked in the NAIA national poll all season, and are currently in the “receiving votes” category this week, having dropped two of their last three games, including last Saturday’s 32-30 setback at Bethel.
Meanwhile, Bluefield was outscored by Lindsey Wilson 17-13 over the final three quarters last week, but a slow start resulted in a 30-0 deficit after the opening period to fall 47-13.
“Typically we have done that in the middle of the game, but we started out bad,” Gravier said. “That is who we have been all year unfortunately.
“We have done that every game, it just happened to start off that way. Usually we start out very well and then we kind of have a lull in the middle and then finish pretty strong, but I am beyond figuring these guys out.”
Bluefield had to start the week’s preparation in the Dome Gymnasium until the Mitchell Stadium turf was cleared of snow on Wednesday.
There was little doubt what to do to get ready for the Bulldogs. Lemeco Miller leads run-oriented Cumberland with 1,105 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. Reed Gurchiek has thrown for 1,248 yards and seven scores, while four receivers have between 11 and 17 receptions.
Connor McChurch has a team-leading 72 tackles.
“They have got one of the top rushers in the country ... He is definitely a kid you have got to try and slow down.” said Gravier, of Miller, who has eclipsed the century mark in seven games this season. “Their defensive line is probably their strength, they have got some pretty good players up there, they are designed to stop the run and in the secondary they just want to keep everything in front of them and not give up the big play.”
Bluefield has been hampered by the injury bug. Tanner Gilleland is out for the season with a bone chip in his heel, while Jose Soto will move to left tackle to replace 325-pound Kevin Johnson, who suffered a fractured fibula in the loss to Lindsey Wilson.
Cory Mabry, who was injured in the loss to Lindsey Wilson, will start at quarterback, while Marion Harris will be the top choice in the backfield. Josh Wells is questionable with a shoulder injury.
Gravier’s offensive gameplan is a controlled passing game to counter the defensive line of the Bulldogs. Bluefield will start three freshman and a fourth — Cody Miller — will see playing time on the offensive line.
Part of the growing pains of a new program is playing 18-year-old freshmen against juniors and seniors who are in their 20s. Gravier has pointed that out often this season, and it was apparent again last week in the loss to the Blue Raiders.
“I told the guys after the game, and not just this game, but at the end of the game when we are playing against their 2s. which are typically guys the same age as us, we have a tendency to do well,” Gravier said. “We move the ball, we play well defensively.
“When we are going against guys our own age we are doing pretty well.”
Bluefield will conclude its season next Saturday by hosting Campbellsville.
— Contact Brian Woodson