BUCKHANNON - A lethal combination of turnovers, penalties and a red-hot opposing quarterback added up to another disappointing loss for the West Liberty University football team Saturday afternoon.
Unbeaten West Virginia Wesleyan (3-0, 1-0 WVC) took advantage of six more Hilltopper (0-3, 0-1 WVC) turnovers and quarterback Adam Neugebauer passed for 358 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Bobcats coasted to a 43-8 victory against the error-plagued visitors.
The Bobcats took control early with a dominant first-quarter performance.
Wesleyan's high-pressure defense took advantage of WLU's injury-riddled offensive line to sack quarterback L.D. Crow at least once in each of West Liberty's first four possessions, keeping the visitors bottled up in their own end of the field.
The Hilltopper defense forced the Bobcats to settle for a 27-yard Phillip Warner field goal to open the game but the floodgates were about to open.
Neugebauer fired 3 touchdown passes in the final 5 minutes of the first quarter to carry what proved to be an insurmountable 23-0 lead into the second period.
The West Liberty defense stiffened, giving up just another Warner field goal for the rest of the half, but the Hilltopper offense still couldn't get anything going and Wesleyan held a 26-0 halftime lead.
Neugebauer threw for 242 yards and 3 TDs in the first 30 minutes as the Bobcats rolled up 311 yards of total offense to just 65 for the Hilltoppers over the first two quarters.
West Liberty got an early spark in the third quarter when the defense forced a 3-and-out on the Bobcats' first possession.
The Hilltoppers got on the board with a safety when Wesleyan snapped the ball through the end zone on the punt attempt but West Liberty couldn't move the sticks after a short free kick and turned the ball over on downs.
Neugebauer tacked on two more TD passes in the third quarter to put the game on ice as Wesleyan took a 40-2 lead into the fourth quarter.
Hilltopper backup quarterback Chris Kiedaisch and juco transfer Hakeem Cartwright trimmed the deficit to 40-8 when they hooked up on a 47-yard touchdown pass with 5:37 remaining but it was too little, too late. Warner wrapped up the scoring for the Bobcats with his third field goal of the day.
West Liberty entered the game ranked last in the nation in turnover margin and didn't improve its status by fumbling 7 times, losing 4, and throwing 2 more interceptions. The Black-and-Gold exacerbated their situation with 13 penalties for 110 yards.
Kiedaisch and Crow combined to complete 19-of-45 passes for 165 yards. Wesleyan was charted with 6 quarterback sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss, leaving the Hilltoppers with minus-14 rushing yards on 27 attempts. Cartwright led the West Liberty receivers with 4 catches for 58 yards and a score while Jimmy Burress was the leading rusher with 26 yards on 6 carries.
Jon Meadows led all receivers for Wesleyan with 11 catches for 166 yards and 2 TDs. Keith Dickens was the Bobcats' leading rusher with 56 yards on 10 carries.
The Hilltoppers return home to host Fairmont State. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Russek Field.