Gardner-Webb. One of the many schools that used a bulldog for a mascot. Not sure why so many schools have a bulldog. Were they cheap and plentiful back when the schools started playing sports? Convenience? Of course if that were the case, you would think that many of the land-grant and former agricultural schools would have simply gone with chickens, turkeys or some other poultry. I probably need some more coffee.
Well, let’s simplify what you need to know about Gardner-Webb from an on-the-field perspective. They are 0-3. They have been blown out by Wofford, Richmond and Samford by a combined score of 139-38. Here’s a capsule look at the star players.
GWU personnel: Sophomore Linebacker Tanner Burch leads the Big South in tackles per game and is No. 3 nationally with an average of 13.6 stops … Wideout Carlton Heard caught a career-high seven passes for 107 yards against Samford with five of the seven receptions securing first-down yardage for the ’Dogs…Sophomore QB Lucas Beatty has already surpassed his season totals from all of last year in completions and yardage. He’s thrown for 666 yards by hitting 65 of 105 attempts with three interceptions and one touchdown…Senior punter Bo Lindsay and Burch were named Big South Conference Players of the Week for their performances versus Samford.
And that’s about it. Love that even their semi-local paper — actually from the neighboring city of Shelby — has to provide a little capsule infodump on the key Gardner-Webb players.
No one in Boiling Springs, NC is denying that this game is all about the money.
Now, playing a Division I-A school or two each season is part of the equation for Gardner-Webb. It began in ’07 with Ohio and Mississippi State, and from then on [GWU Athletics VP Chuck] Burch has told his men’s basketball and football coaches that playing guaranteed (money) games was a part of their responsibility to the university. Burch said the goal is to bring in $1 million a year through that avenue, and the reality is that there aren’t many other revenue streams from which to choose.
Since Pitt needed this game at the last minute, they are forking over $475,000 to Gardner-Webb. So, this game is a big chunk towards their, uh, fundraising goal.
A small Baptist college out in the middle of rural NC. Dry town. No drinking or smoking. Required to take a ton of “spiritual seminars.” Can’t think of a worse set up for the college experience. Or just experiencing much of life.
Now for the requisite, “we can’t overlook Gardner-Webb” stories.
Senior receiver Mike Shanahan said the team definitely learned from the Youngstown State loss, but noted that he didn’t think the loss came because Pitt overlooked the Penguins.
“I think it’s going to be similar to Youngstown State in that we’re going to approach them just like we would any other game,” Shanahan said. “It proves in college football, anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”
Coach Chryst is going with the “we are only worried about our own stuff.”
Practice was intense, and volume from coaches shouting instructions and admonishments was just as high.
Yet, with respect to the school from Boiling Springs, N.C., that boasts an enrollment of 4,970, Pitt will be fighting a battle with itself as much as with its opponent Saturday at Heinz Field.
“Never am I overconcerned about the opponent as much as I am about our team,” Chryst said. “I’ve always been that (way). The guys heard the same message this week as they heard last week and as they’ll hear from here on out.
“You have to take care of your business, and you have to know how it fits with your opponent.”
Probably the only option. Guess it’s a test for the coaching staff to keep the players focused.