Gardner-Webb ready for Saturday’s Big South Championship showdown with North Carolina A&T
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. (WBTV) - Saturday down in Boiling Springs, Gardner-Webb will play one of their biggest football games in program history.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs will host North Carolina A&T with the winner claiming the Big South Conference title and birth into the FCS playoffs.
“This is what we dreamed of at Gardner-Webb when I took this job back in 2020,” said Gardner-Webb head coach Tre Lamb. “You don’t get a lot of these kind of opportunities as a coach or a player in your lifetime so we want to make sure we enjoy every single second, take in all the noise, and all the good stuff that is going to happen on Saturday.”
GW’s last conference title came back in 2003, but they were not able to get the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament because the league did not have enough teams to qualify for an automatic bid. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were also denied an at large bid by the selection committee.
So a win on Saturday means GW will qualify for the FCS playoff for the very first time.
“It’s not just another game,” said coach. “I think our guys understand that. There’s a lot on the line.”
But to minimize some of that pressure, coach hasn’t really focused on the past struggles of this program or reflected back on the success of back to back titles in 2002 and 2003.
“It’s really more about our team,” said coach. “We got the chance to do something special. Nothing else in the future matters, nothing else in the past matter, the only thing that matter is 12 o’clock on Saturday.
Another key to success Saturday for GW is playing this game just like any other this season.
“We don’t have to go out there and run 10 trick plays, 3 fake punts, and a fake field goal to win the game. I think our talent, our culture, and our best players are the ones that will win this football game.”
Offensively, GW can get it done with quarterback Bailey Fisher leading the way.
The senior has thrown for over 2 thousand yards with 16 passing TD and 7 rushing TD. But he has some great weapons to help him out.
On the outside, TJ Luther and Cutrell Haywood have been a dynamic one-two punch at wide receiver. Luther has over a thousand yards receiving with 51 catches and Haywood leads the Big South in receptions with 64. When the focus turns to the passing game, GW can hit opponents with the running game as well with Narii Gaither.
The fact that GW is in this spot is truly remarkable. The Runnin’ Bulldogs started the season 1-4 due to one of the toughest schedules in the country. That tough schedule clearly got them ready for the conference slate as they are currently 4-0.
Another reason for the tough start was the fact they they didn’t play many home games. Saturday will be only their 4th game in Boiling Springs this season and what a time to finally be back in Spangler Stadium.
“This will probably be the best crowd in maybe Gardner-Webb history,” said coach. “I expect them (A&T) to travel well. I expect us to have a lot of people in the stands. We got some high priority recruits and transfers coming. It’s just going to be a great day and I want to make sure we relish every moment.
Kickoff Saturday is at noon at Spangler Stadium in Boiling Springs.
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