Gardner-Webb will travel to face Pittsburgh in its lone FBS game of the season, with kickoff set for 3:30 pm at Heinz Field. Fabian Fuentes, Voice of the Runnin’ Bulldogs, and Matt Clark will call the action on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org). Saturday’s game will also air on ESPN3, with Shawn Kenney and John Gregory providing that call (watchespn.com).
SERIES NOTES ... FBS NOTES
Gardner-Webb and Pittsburgh have not met on the gridiron ... GWU has never played at team from the Big East in football ... The Runnin’ Bulldogs are 4-9 all-time against current members of the FBS, picking up wins over Florida Atlantic (2001), Florida International (2002, 2003) and Akron (2010).
Gardner-Webb head coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., is in his second season in charge of the Runnin’ Bulldogs and holds a 4-10 career record with the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Paul Chryst is in his first season as head coach at Pittsburgh and is 1-2 so far this season. The Pittsburgh post is Chryst’s first as a college head coach.
GWU head coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., is a graduate of State College (Pa.) High, and was a member of the Big 33 All-Star team as a senior in 1989, before taking his skills to Arkansas ... Receivers coach Ron Dickerson, Sr., the father of Gardner-Webb’s head coach, served as secondary coach at Pitt under Coach Jackie Sherrill in 1979 and 1980 – helping the Panthers to a pair of 11-1 seasons and two bowl wins. Dickerson, Sr., hails from Coraopolis, Pa., and was also head coach at Temple in the 1990s ... Gardner-Webb has one player on its 2012 roster from Pennsylvania – linebacker Trei Gilcrist (Harrisburg, Pa. / Central Dauphin HS) ... Pittsburgh assistant coach Matt House worked as Gardner-Webb’s defensive line coach in 2005, coaching future NFL Draft pick Brian Johnston (7th round, 2008, Chiefs).
ESPN3 IN 2K12
Gardner-Webb will make at least three appearances on ESPN in 2012, beginning this week at Pittsburgh (3:30 pm). Gardner-Webb’s November 3 game vs. Coastal Carolina will also be aired by ESPN3 as part of the Big South Conference’s “Game of the Week” programming, as will its November 10 road game at Charleston Southern. Both games are set for 1:30 pm kickoffs. The October 6 game at Liberty may also be picked up by the network.
THE CONVERSION STORY
Gardner-Webb showed improvement against Samford both converting third downs offensively and limiting Samford from doing so on the other side, but still ranks near the bottom of the Big South in both categories. GWU converted 5-of-11 third down chances against the Bulldogs, but is only 13-of-48 for the season (107th nationally). Defensively, the ‘Dogs held Samford to 6-of-17 on third down, moving up to 72nd nationally in the FCS.
Gardner-Webb had little luck offensively in the season’s first two games, with wet weather and delays not helping the unit’s development. Against Samford, Gardner-Webb darted its way to a season-high 442 yards and ran 84 plays – its best offensive output since November 3 against Virginia State (443 yards) last season. GWU had its first 300-yard passing performance since midway through the 2009 season as well, helping churn out 27 first downs (16 passing).
OFFENSIVE LINE A STRONG GROUP
Gardner-Webb returns six players with starting experience on the offensive line for the 2012 season. Five of those men are seniors: Right tackle Steve Demilio (6-5, 293, RSr.-3L); right guard Aaron Huck (6-3, 296, RSr.-1L); center Austin Sargent (6-3, 302, Sr.-3L); left guard Jamie Dunaway (6-3, 290, Sr.-3L) and left tackle Harrison Martin (6-6, 285, Gr.-3L). Right guard Jeff Harris (6-2, 292, RJr.-2L) is entering his fourth season in the program. David McConnell (6-5, 304, RSo.) and Dylan Hopper (6-4, 295, Fr.) each started the season’s first three games, with Harris and Martin each coming off the bench.
D-LINE DEEPLY SEASONED
The Runnin’ Bulldogs have a wealth of experienced depth in the defensive trenches in 2012. Five players have starting experience and seven have played extensively during their time in Boiling Springs to date. Tackle Matt Goods (6-2, 275, RJr.-2L) and end Preston Pemasa (6-2, 257, Jr.-2L) have earned All-Big South honors in each of their two seasons so far and both were named Big South Freshman of the Year in their respective rookie seasons. Versatile dual-threat linemen Tyler Hough-Jenkins (6-4, 281, RSo.-1L) and Maurice Dickson (6-4, 265, Jr.-2L) have experience at both tackle and end. Tackles Dylan Taylor (6-0, 255, Gr.-3L) and Maurice Bryan (6-2, 271, Gr.-3L) are both graduate students with three years experience, with Taylor earning multiple starts over the past two seasons. Youngsters Shaquille Riddick (6-7, 235, So.-1L) and O.J. Le’iauta Mau (6-2, 275, Fr.-HS) will also continue to log snaps.
BEATTY STRONG AGAINST SAMFORD
Redshirt sophomore Lucas Beatty (6-2, 220) found his groove against Samford, hitting 30-of-43 passes for 320 yards and moving the Gardner-Webb offense as well as any quarterback in the past three seasons. Beatty’s effort earned him Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors from CollegeSportsMadness.com, and his statistics marked new career-high totals in completions, attempts and yardage. His 666 yards passing so far in 2012 is already more than he totaled in 2011 as a part-time starter.
Redshirt freshman Carlton Heard (6-0, 178) continued to impress in the season’s third week, catching a career-high seven passes for 107 yards against Samford. The Athens, Ga., native saw five of his catches go for first downs – despite absorbing several big hits across the middle. Heard entered the Gardner-Webb program in August 2011 as a walk-on, but was so impressive during preseason camp that he earned a scholarship before the 2011 season started. The former Clarke Central (Ga.) High standout redshirted last season.
BO KNOWS PUNTING
In his first season as a full-time starter, senior punter Bo Lindsey (5-11, 155) has been outstanding. The Roebuck, S.C., native earned Big South Special Teams Player of the Week honors on Sept. 17 after booming six kicks for an average of 42.7 yards per attempt against Samford. Lindsey leads the Big South and ranks No. 19 nationally in average yards per punt in 2012 (43.2) and has pinned the opponent inside the 20 five times – with five punts longer than 50 yards.
Gardner-Webb has developed a nice pipeline to the west coast in recent years, dating back to 2007 NFL Draft selection Brian Johnston (San Diego, Calif.). This season, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have 12 players who call California their home state, the most from the Golden State since the program made the jump to NCAA Division I in 2000. Of that dozen, nine were listed on the 2012 preseason two-deep.
Linebacker Tanner Burch (6-3, 242, So.) has been around the football often in his first three starts, totaling 41 tackles to lead the Big South Conference and rank No. 3 nationally (13.6 tpg). Against Samford, Burch collected 16 total stops (six solo), recovered a fumble and broke up a pass on a key third down play to earn Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. It was the third week in a row that Burch had reached double digits in tackles – following a 15-hit peformance vs. Wofford (9/1) and a 10-tackle effort at Richmond (9/8). A highly recruited prospect who signed with Gardner-Webb in February, 2011, Burch was named 2010 Georgia Class 1A State Defensive Player of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and earned MaxPreps/US Air Force Small School All-America honors that same season.
MEET DREW WHITE
With All-Big South cornerback Ivan Toomer slated to redshirt in 2012, Gardner-Webb had a starting position up for grabs when August camp started. Enter junior college transfer Drew White (5-9, 172, Jr.), who took that opportunity and earned a job with an outstanding August. White stepped up with an interception in the season opener against No. 10 Wofford, and was a ball hawk during Gardner-Webb’s preseason practice – picking off double figure passes during that stretch. He has registered 12 total tackles, an interception and a pass break up so far in 2012.
TURNOVER BATTLE IS KEY
In Gardner-Webb’s four wins last season, the Runnin’ Bulldogs committed only one turnover – owning an impressive plus-7 edge in turnover margin during those games. In its last nine losses, Gardner-Webb has coughed up 25 turnovers (2.8 per game).
EVERY 10 YEARS
Gardner-Webb football has been excellent each of the past 10 years, dating back to a seven-win season in 1982. In 1992, Gardner-Webb posted a 12-2 mark, won the South Atlantic Conference championship and advanced to the NAIA National Championship Bowl. In 2002, Gardner-Webb went 9-1, won the inaugural Big South Conference championship and finished ranked in the top-20 in both major national polls at season’s end.
PRESEASON NATIONAL HONORS
Gardner-Webb players collected several preseason honors, with kicker Trever Austin the most widely noted. Austin (5-10, 194, So.-1L) was named to the Fred Mitchell Award Watch List, the College Football Performance Awards Watch List and was an honorable mention All-America selection by Beyond Sports Network. Jamie Dunaway earned second-team All-America honors from Beyond Sports Network, and Preston Pemasa was named to the College Football Performance Awards Watch list at defensive end for the second preseason in a row. Gardner-Webb has had at least one preseason All-America since 2002.
STARTING TO COOK
Receiver Kenny Cook (6-4, 216, RSo.) earned tremendous respect during an outstanding spring with the Runnin’ Bulldogs after transferring in from Garden City (Kan.) Community College in January. The Cross Hill, S.C., native has been a top target already in 2012, catching 14 passes for 155 yards and a score – including five catches for 56 yards in the loss at Richmond and seven catches for 71 yards vs. Samford. Cook earned All-KJCCC honors last season at Garden City, and was an All-State selection at Clinton (S.C.) High on the prep level.
ON THE AIR
Gardner-Webb’s football games this season can be heard live on WGWG-FM (88.3), the school’s 50,000-watt flagship station. Fabian Fuentes will provide the play-by-play call all season, with David Allen providing color at home and Matt Clark serving in that role on the road. Log onto to wgwg.org for a live audio stream via the internet as well.
THE RON DICKERSON, JR., RADIO SHOW
Every Monday night at 7:00 pm, Fabian Fuentes and Ron Dickerson, Jr., will host the Ron Dickerson, Jr., Coaches Show on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org). The show will broadcast live from the Bulldog Quik Snak in Boiling Springs, N.C., and is open to the public.
Gardner-Webb will enjoy an open date before returning to action on October 6 at Big South contender Liberty. Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm in Williams Stadium and will be broadcast live on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org) and the Flames Sports Television Network. †