UU to host West Va. State in home opener

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The Urbana University football team welcomes West Virginia State to town on Saturday for the home opener at UU Stadium. The two Mountain East Conference teams, who are both coming off Week 1 losses, will kick off at 1 p.m.

UU is still searching for its first home win under head coach Tyler Haines. In his debut season last year, UU went 0-5 on its home turf; however, the Blue Knights gave Haines his first collegiate win over the Yellow Jackets (30-23) last year on the road in Week 2.

The Blue Knights are entering Saturday’s game following a 44-24 setback to Glenville State last week. A slow start led to an early 10-0 hole, and UU didn’t get going until the third quarter, where it outscored GSC 14-0 with a pair of touchdown runs by freshman Ja’Vahri Portis. That got UU back to within 10 points going into the fourth, but the offense stalled in the final period.

UU finished with 251 yards on offense and allowed seven sacks to a talented Glenville State defensive line.

“The biggest thing that I took away is that we’ve got to be ready to play, right from the beginning,” Haines said. “We can’t make mistakes against good football teams and try to catch up all the time. We’ve got to take the lead, take the initiative, and get going early.”

UU suffered a few injuries to key players in Week 1, most notably starting quarterback Tajuan Green, who has been labeled as questionable to start Saturday’s contest. Green left the game briefly in the first quarter, but returned to finish 14 of 27 for 171 yards against the Pioneers with one score and one turnover through the air.

If Green can’t go, then senior transfer and Dayton native Marcus Graham will be called upon to make his first start in a Blue Knight uniform.

Graham enrolled as a graduate student this fall after taking a year off from football. He played quarterback three years at Benedict College (SC) from 2012-14, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also led Wayne High School to a state championship game appearance in 2010.

Whoever is behind center will target junior slot receiver Trevon Saunders, who scored his 10th career touchdown on a 44-yard connection with Green last week. Saunders is building off an all-league selection in 2015 and remains UU’s biggest offensive weapon.

Defensively, UU allowed over 400 yards to the Pioneers last week and five passing touchdowns. It won’t be any easier as UU attempts to limit the MEC’s leading team in passing offense this Saturday.

West Virginia State enters the matchup aiming to bounce back following a 30-20 defeat to Fairmont State. The Yellow Jackets led 20-10 at halftime, but were shut down in the second half and turned the ball over five times.

Junior quarterback Matt Kinnick leads the Yellow Jackets, along with wideout Akil Washington who caught five passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns last week.

UU leads the all-time series 2-1 against WVSU, including a 62-10 romp in 2013. The Yellow Jackets won 18-13 the last time the two schools met in Urbana during the 2014 campaign. UU pulled out a last-second win at WVSU last year (30-23) when Saunders hauled in a 38-yard touchdown to break a tied score.

UU fans can follow the game online with a live webcast and audio at UUBlueKnights.com.

UU football tickets cost $8 for general admission and $5 for parking. For senior citizens 65 and older and children 12 and younger, tickets cost $6. UU also offers reserved seating for all six home games for $30.

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