EDINBORO, Pa. - A veteran Edinboro team took advantage of some missed opportunities by a young West Liberty squad to turn a defensive nailbiter into a 30-14 victory on a sweltering Saturday at Sox Harrison Stadium.
Edinboro tailback Drew Herrell broke off 61-yard runs on back-to-back possessions to open the third quarter and the Hilltoppers came away empty-handed on three second-half trips into Fighting Scots territory as Edinboro notched its fourth straight season-opening victory against West Liberty.
Senior tailback Brandon Davis rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in his Hilltoppers debut, while fellow transfer L.D. Crow completed 22 of 37 passes for 148 yards against a staunch Fighting Scots defense designed to take away West Liberty's intermediate and deep passing routes.
Edinboro took a 9-7 lead into the locker room when Frank Romanias booted his third field of the second quarter - a 40-yarder - on the final snap of the half.
In a half dominated by defense, the Hilltoppers stop troops came up big. West Liberty held the hosts out of the end zone after back-to-back turnovers inside WLU territory and limited Edinboro to six first downs and 112 yards of total offense during the first two quarters.
Davis put the Toppers on the board with a pretty 30-yard touchdown dash on a draw handoff from Crow at 3:15 of the second quarter, capping a six-play, 67-yard drive.
Herrell's two long runs helped the Fighting Scots break things open in the early minutes of the second half.
The sophomore tailback broke into the clear on the second snap of the third quarter and didn't stop running until Hilltoppers safety Marco Ricchetti tumbled him out of bounds at the WLU 7. D'Aundrea Vaughn spun into the end zone from a yard out for a 16-7 Edinboro lead.
West Liberty missed a golden opportunity on the ensuing drive when it caught the Scots in a blown pass coverage only to have Crow's potential 26-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Marcus Brown float just off the freshman wideout's outstretched fingertips at the goal line.
The Hilltoppers turned the ball over on downs at the 30 and Herrell turned a 3rd-and-1 snap into a 61-yard touchdown gallop when he popped through a hole up the middle, slipped a tackle and outraced everyone to the end zone. The PAT made it 23-7 with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
West Liberty answered with its best sustained drive, rolling 75 yards on nine plays with Davis muscling across from 2 yards out for the score. Davis kept the march alive by converting two third-down situations with runs of 32 and 9 yards. That cut the gap to 23-14 with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter but the Hilltoppers could come no closer.
West Liberty drove into Edinboro territory on each of its next two possessions but failed to capitalize, turning the ball over once on downs and missing a 38-yard field goal try, before the Scots closed out the scoring on a 21-yard touchdown run by Brian Davis with just 2:24 left in the game.
The Hilltoppers' Brandon Schroeder led all receivers with 58 yards on seven catches while linebacker Kyle Augustin had a game-high 14 tackles. West Liberty amassed 95 rushing yards and 148 passing yards for 243 yards of total offense.
Herrell finished with 165 rushing yards on 18 carries but Fighting Scots' QB Cody Harris completed 10 of 18 passes for just 71 yards and no touchdowns. Edinboro finished with 296 yards of total offense.
The Hilltoppers return home to host perennial Northeast-10 power Southern Connecticut State on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Russek Field.
Edinboro 30, West Liberty 14
West Liberty0 7 7 0 - 14
Edinboro0 9 14 7 - 30
Ed-FG Romanias 21, 14:19
Ed-FG Romanias 26, 9:31
WL-Davis 30 run (Hoak kick), 3:15
Ed-FG Romanias 40, :00
Ed-Vaughn 1 run (Romanias kick), 10:32
Ed-Herrell 61 run (Romanias kick), 6:23
WL-Davis 2 run (Hoak kick), 1:44
Ed-Davis 21 run (Romanias kick), 2:24
RUSHING: West Liberty 27-95; Davis 18-104, Victorio 3-34, Yocum 1-(-20), Crow 5-(-23). Edinboro 43-225; Herrell 16-165, Vaughn 13-50, Davis 3-24, Team 3-(-3), Harris 8-(-11).
PASSING: West Liberty 22-37-148-0td-2x (all by Crow). Edinboro 10-18-71-0td-0x (all by Harris)
RECEIVING: West Liberty 22-148; Schroeder 7-58, Victorio 7-19, Brown 4-39, Phillips 2-18, Devers 1-11, Davis 1-3. Edinboro 10-71; Bostic 4-38, Eisel 2-21, Iskula 2-9, Hembree 1-5, Marino 1-(-2).
First downs: West Liberty 14, Edinboro 12
Fumbles: West Liberty 4-0, Edinboro 0-0
Penalties: West Liberty 10-70, Edinboro 6-43
Time of Possession: West Liberty 28:48, Edinboro 21:12