The University of West Georgia football coach noted that his team did what it needed to do in dispatching of Point University in a 55-3 rout last Saturday, but with the Pioneers bringing a much more established program — not to mention a standout signal-caller in Bo Cordell — Dickey doesn’t expect the Pioneers to be a pushover, by any means.
“Absolutely. We’re 0-3 against the South Atlantic Conference since we’ve started here. This team beat us last year and I’m sure [Tusculum] coach [Frankie] DeBusk will have them ready to play and excited about their opportunity of playing on TV and playing in our stadium. I’m sure they’ll be very prepared,” Dickey said in reference to the game airing on CSS as part of the GSC-TV Live package.
The Wolves (1-0) dropped a 20-10 contest to Tusculum last season in Greeneville, Tenn., where the UWG defense contained Cordell, by his standards, holding the 2010 Harlon Hill finalist to a pedestrian 266 yards and no touchdowns on 32-of-46 passing.
Dickey said not letting Cordell go off could very well be the difference in a win or loss on Saturday.
“We’ve got to hold up everywhere on defense, especially in the middle of our secondary. We’ve got to be able to hold up,” Dickey said. “They’re a good football team and they’re going to make their plays. There’s no doubt about that. We’ve got to respond appropriately and not get rattled, not get shoveled and keep playing ball and good things will happen to us.”
The Pioneers (0-1) suffered a 53-33 road setback at Urbana (Ohio) last week despite Cordell completing 38-of-58 pass attempts for 389 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. The Pioneers struggled with turnovers — losing three fumbles — and on third down, converting just 4-of-17 attempts. The Tusculum defense also yielded 618 yards of total offense — 313 on the ground and 305 through the air.
But the UWG coach’s primary concern is his own team and how it responds to adverse situations on Saturday. Dickey said with loftier expectations, he wants his team to deliver when it matters most.
“We’ve got big aspirations and we’ve got big goals. The standard and the bar is high for this program and this football team,” Dickey said. “This is certainly a big test for us. We’ve made progress every year, and I sure hope on Saturday we take the right step.”
The Wolves will be without one of their top play-makers offensively, as junior wideout/return specialist Denarius Appling was injured in a car accident last Saturday night. Appling is now home recovering and Dickey said his status for the time being is that he “is out indefinitely.”
“Certainly a very tragic situation last Saturday night. But thankfully he survived and his passenger in the car was not seriously injured. But Denarius is out indefinitely right now,” Dickey said.
The Wolves have Quan Jones listed as the starting kickoff returner on their depth chart, with V.J. Hunt handling punts and redshirt freshman Joey Eliezer stepping in to get the start at wideout. Eliezer hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from UWG quarterback Austin Trainor during last week’s win.
And as the Wolves prepare for the second of three-non conference games before opening the Gulf South Conference slate on Sept. 29 at West Alabama, Dickey wants his team to pick up some early-season steam and build momentum for an always difficult GSC terrain.
“That certainly would help. We need to come out of our non-conference schedule undefeated. We’ve got a chance to compete at the upper level of the Gulf South Conference and be in the top six teams in the region and be in the top 24 teams in the country. That’s our goal is to play after our 10th ball game. And Saturday is certainly a really big test for that,” Dickey said.