Presbyterian enters Saturday’s game in Ernest W. Spangler Stadium in the midst of a five-game losing streak ... The Blue Hose last won on September 29 at Davidson (28-13) ... Receiver and kick return ace Michael Ruff will play in his final game for the Blue Hose Saturday and has piled up 1,183 career receiving yards ... Ruff had a kickoff return for a score earlier this season ... Running back Lance Byrd has run for more than 2,000 yards in his career – and had three touchdown runs in the first quarter against Gardner-Webb ... 2011 Freshman of the Year Donelle Williams ranks No. 3 in the Big South Conference with 89 total tackles (46 solo) this season.
Gardner-Webb hosts Presbyterian in both teams’ season finale Saturday afternoon at 1:30 pm in Ernest W. Spangler Stadium. The game will serve as Senior Day 2012 and Military Appreciation Day. Kickoff is set for 1:30 pm. Fabian Fuentes and David Allen will provide the call on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org) and the Big South Network (bigsouthsports.com).
Presbyterian leads the all-time series over Gardner-Webb, 17-16-0, with the two teams first meeting in 1970 as members of the NAIA ... The 33 games played are the most against any current Big South member for GWU ... The two were charter members of the SAC-8 football conference and then the South Atlantic Conference ... Presbyterian has won two in a row in the series, but the 2010 win by the Blue Hose in Spangler Stadium (26-24) was later vacated ... Gardner-Webb won three in a row over PC in 1999, 2008 and 2009 ... Gardner-Webb is 2-1 against the Blue Hose since PC’s move to NCAA Division I.
Gardner-Webb head coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., is in his second season in charge of the Runnin’ Bulldogs and holds a 6-15 career record with the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Presbyterian head coach Harold Nichols, a former Blue Hose quarterback, is 6-35 at his alma mater in his fourth season.
LAST TIME AGAINST THE BLUE HOSE
Presbyterian took advantage of three first quarter turnovers to build a 21-0 lead, and Gardner-Webb would not be able to fully recover as the Blue Hose won 28-14 on Homecoming in Clinton, S.C. Lance Byrd scored on runs of 33, 2 and 4 yards to build the early lead – with all three touchdown drives covering less than 60 yards. Lucas Beatty’s quarterback sneak just before halftime trimmed the lead to 21-7, but PC would go up 28-7 before a Ricky Rhodes run cut the lead to the final margin with just over 11 minutes left in the game.
LAST TWO AT HOME FOR LUCAS
Quarterback Lucas Beatty (6-2, 220, RSo.) has been red-hot of late in Spangler Stadium, completing a sizzling 46-of-64 passes for 649 yards, six touchdowns and only two interceptions over the last two home games. His 181.74 pass efficiency rating has been helped by an average of 14.1 yards per completion in those games.
Fifth-year senior back Kenny Little is nearing 2,000 career yards on the ground heading into the season finale. The Flanders, N.J., native needs just 29 yards to become the sixth runner in Gardner-Webb history to reach that mark. Little (5-11, 208) has carried 402 times for 1,971 yards and 15 touchdowns during his career, averaging a solid 4.9 yards per carry. He currently ranks sixth in school history in yardage, ninth in carries and 10th in yards per carry. His touchdown total is tied for seventh-best in Gardner-Webb history.
Gardner-Webb has seen a total of 10 freshmen start on offense and defense so far in 2012. Offensively, right guard Dylan Hopper (6-4, 295) and receiver Carlton Heard (6-0, 178) have been regulars in the lineup this season. Slot receiver Demarcus White (5-9, 165) made his first start against VMI. Defensively, cornerback Tiko Thompson (5-8, 148), safety Brandon Swayze (6-2, 190), tackle O.J. Mau (6-2, 275), linebacker Azziz Higgins (6-2, 225), linebacker Chad Geter (6-2, 220) and defensive back Jonathan Sherrill (6-3, 196) have made starts.
CRANFILL-ING THE RECORD BOOK
Redshirt sophomore tight end Seth Cranfill (6-4, 230) broke the Big South Conference’s single-season record for receptions by a tight end, hauling in two passes at Charleston Southern on November 10 to get past David Duran’s 2009 effort. Cranfill was tied with Duran at 34 receptions heading into the CSU game and now has 36 catches for 343 yards and a pair of touchdowns to his credit in 2012. Cranfill previously broke the Gardner-Webb single season mark of 32 receptions set by Jason Bright in 2001. Bright owns the school’s career mark for the position with 80 career catches. Cranfill is in his first season with the Runnin’ Bulldogs after redshirting in 2010 and missing 2011 with an injury.
D-LINE DEEPLY SEASONED
Gardner-Webb will honor 15 seniors prior to kickoff of the season finale. The 15 seniors are: defensive tackle Kapono Asuega (Costa Mesa, Calif.); defensive lineman Maurice Bryan (Monroe, N.C.); offensive lineman Steve Demilio (Severna Park, Md.); offensive lineman Jamie Dunaway (Lyman, S.C.); offensive lineman Aaron Huck (San Jose, Calif.); linebacker Chris James (Newnan, Ga.); quarterback Exavier Johnson (Lake Balboa, Calif.); tight end Theo Johnson (Los Angeles, Calif.); punter Bo Lindsey (Roebuck, S.C.); running back Kenny Little (Flanders, N.J.); offensive lineman Harrison Martin (Charlotte, N.C.); cornerback Kamar Morrison (Inglewood, Calif.); offensive lineman Austin Sargent (Ninety Six, S.C.); defensive lineman Dylan Taylor (Spartaburg, S.C.) and linebacker Brian Wittenberger (Gaithersburg, Md.). That group represents seven current starters.
Redshirt sophomore Kenny Cook (6-4, 216) has evolved into a dangerous weapon in the red zone, as evidenced by his six touchdown catches this season – with four inside the red zone and all six coming from inside 25 yards. Cook has caught a team-high 41 passes for 581 yards, and is averaging 16.8 yards per catch in Big South Conference games. He has two 100-yard games in league play, and is averaging 81.3 yards per game against league foes.
BIG STARTS FOR BEATTY
Lucas Beatty (6-2, 220, RSo.) has enjoyed a breakout season in his first full season as the Gardner-Webb starter under center, passing for a career-high 2,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. A closer look at the number reveals hot starts for the Charlotte, N.C., native in several games. Five times so far in 2012 Beatty has completed at least his first five passes. Four times those starts have resulted in 300-yard passing games – the most by any Gardner-Webb quarterback in a single season since John Craven had six games with at least 300 yards 20 years ago in 1992. Against Liberty, Beatty completed his first six passes for 119 yards and a touchdown – and finished the first half by going 16-of-17 for 301 yards and a score. He hit on his first six passes against VMI (10/27) and went 5-for-5 on the opening drive against Coastal Carolina (11/3).
FOUR WITH 30
Gardner-Webb has four men with at least 30 receptions in the same season for the first time since 2001, with Kenny Cook (41-581-6), Deonte Swinton (37-406-0), Seth Cranfill (36-343-2) and Carlton Heard (31-422-1) each crossing that plateau this season. The last quartet to catch at least 30 during the same season was comprised of William Andrews, Jr., Darin Bradford, tight end Jason Bright and Willie Buchanant.
BURCH’S BIG YEAR CONTINUES
Linebacker Tanner Burch (6-3, 242, So.) is in the midst of a special season at middle linebacker and has been a very bright spot for a young linebacker corps for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Burch has notched at least 10 tackles in eight of the nine games he has played. Burch missed the CSU game with an injury, but has earned Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors twice already this season. Burch leads the Big South with 113 total tackles and ranks No. 3 nationally with 12.6 tackles per game. He has added 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a pass break up in his first nine career starts. He saw limited action as a reserve in 2011, but was highly sought after as a prep senior at Savannah Christian (Ga.) Prep. 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.
Five Gardner-Webb seniors have accepted invitations to play in the 2012 FCS Senior Scout Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C., later this year. Steve Demilio, Jamie Dunaway, Kenny Little, Austin Sargent and Dylan Taylor will play in the game, according to the GWU coaching staff. Last season, seniors Marty Patterson and James Perry III played in the game.
NO MORE LIGHTS
Gardner-Webb will play its final two games in 2012 during daylight hours, and statistically that might be good news for the GWU offense. In six day games against FCS foes so far in 2012, GWU is averaging 386.3 yards of total offense and 24.8 ppg. In its night games against FCS foes, the ‘Dogs averaged just 241 yards per game and 6.5 points per outing.
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.
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.
THIS WEEK’S BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE GAMES
Saturday, November 17
Presbyterian at Gardner-Webb, 1:30 *
Liberty at VMI, 1:30 *
Charleston So. at Coastal Carolina, 3:30 *
#12 Stony Brook, Idle
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 four games, with Harris and Martin each coming off the bench.
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.
Gardner-Webb will wear a special helmet for its 2012 Military Appreciation Day game, donning its familiar black lids with a twist. The Bulldog logo will feature a digital camo sweater instead of its traditional red top and will be larger than the current logo that appears weekly. Saturday’s game day program will also feature a special camo theme.