This game is one that many expect the Panthers to win, however nothing is guaranteed after their lackluster effort in a loss to Youngstown State.
This 0-3 Gardner-Webb team is no Youngstown State by any means, but last week’s upset victory over the now unranked Virginia Tech Hokies leaves me even more confused than ever.
Here is exactly why Gardner-Webb will not compete with the Panthers come gametime:
1. The schedule: The Runnin’ Bulldogs have lost 34-7, 41-8 and 44-23 to their opponents, none of which are up to the Panthers level. This team gives up large chunks of yards on the pass and considering Tino Sunseri may have had his best game as a Panther, facing this team is music to his ears.
2. Coming together: I initially did not believe a three running back system worked for the Panthers but there are enough carries to go around for Ray Graham, Rushel Shell and Isaac Bennett. Facing an 0-3 team, there could be more carries to go around.
3. Defense: Each week I continue to type that the Panthers will go as far as their defense allows them. They played the game of their life last week. Now that one of their leaders and returning starters Aaron Donald is likely out for the game, they will have to find other ways to frustrate Runnin’ Bulldogs quarterback Lucas Beatty (222 yards per game, 1 TD, 3 INT)
4. Numbers don’t lie: Not too many of Gardner-Webb’s numbers will turn heads. Tailback Kenny Little leads the team with 61.7 yards per game on the ground to go along with two touchdowns. Their most dangerous player may be J.J. Hubbard who already has a 73 yard kickoff return this season. Punt returner Bo Lindsey has a 57 yard punt return this season as well, something the Panthers also need to be aware of after their hiccup in that category last week. Drew White, Gianni Olivas and Brian Wittenberger lead their defense with an interception each.
Prediction: The Panthers should have a big game. While it may be tempting to frequently pass the football, I am looking for a balanced and disciplined attack from the Panthers that will frustrate the Gardner-Webb defense.
Panthers 41 Runnin’ Bulldogs 10
Bonus: Here are the Panthers thoughts following their win last week against the Hokies.