WEST LIBERTY - Although Roger Waialae was naturally disappointed after seeing West Liberty's two-game winning streak snapped in last week's loss to No. 25 Charleston, the Hilltoppers coach says his squad still has plenty to play for as it prepares for Saturday's game at Seton Hill.
West Liberty (4-4, 3-3) and the Griffins (0-8, 0-6) are set for a 3 p.m. kickoff in Greensburg, Pa.
"The thing that bothered me about last week is that we hung in there against a very good football team and made enough plays to give ourselves an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter only to have one mistake wipe that all out," Waialae said. "That's the painful part of the learning process.
"Like I told our kids after the game, there are three teams with one loss at the top of this conference. We beat one of them (Shepherd), lost to another one (Glenville State) by a field goal and were in the game with Charleston all the way to the end. After what we went through last year with only one win, I think the kids are proud of being a part of turning this program around and they want to keep it going in the right direction."
Since making a surprising run to the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2008, Seton Hill has taken up near-permanent residence at the bottom of the WVIAC standings. The Griffins haven't won a game this season and have just one victory in their last 22 games dating back to the middle of the 2010 season.
Despite their record, Seton Hill has been anything but an automatic victory this fall. The Griffins have held fourth-quarter leads against defending WVIAC champion Concord and West Virginia State, trailed Charleston just 19-13 in the fourth quarter and dropped a 54-47 decision at Fairmont State last week when the Falcons hit a game-winning TD pass with less than two minutes remaining.
"They have some playmakers," Waialae said. "Their quarterback has been playing at a high level the last few weeks and their two receivers are 1-2 in the conference. They feature the pass but their back can hurt you if he gets a seam. Defensively, they like to get after the quarterback so we need a big game from our offensive line."
The Hilltoppers offense and freshman QB Dylan Lagarde struggled against one of the nation's top defenses last week but should find the going a little easier in Greensburg. While Charleston ranked at or near the top of the WVIAC charts in nearly every defensive category, Seton Hill rests at the other end of the spectrum. The Griffins are 137th in the nation in scoring defense, 112th in total defense and 140th in pass efficiency defense.
"First of all," Waialae said, "Charleston's a very good defensive team. I think the wind may have bothered Dylan a little bit, as well, but it's easy to forget that he's still an 18-year-old kid who was throwing against high school defenses in California at this time last year. Last week was tough, but it's part of the learning experience every freshman has to go through. Dylan will be fine."
With starting TB Kenjay Trueblood sidelined by injury last week, junior TB Isiah Moody got his first start and made the most of it with 95 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Trueblood was held out of practice at the start of this week but will be a game-day decision. Even so, Seton Hill can probably expect a big dose of Trueblood, Moody and speedster Dirone McBride on Saturday.
"I think the most important thing for us to do on Saturday is establish our running game," Waialae said. "We did that at West Virginia State and it really opened things up in the passing game. It's much harder to defend somebody who throws when they want to throw instead of when they have to throw."
Seton Hill's 26-22 victory at West Liberty last season is the Griffins' only victory in seven meetings with the Hilltoppers ... WLU safety Marco Ricchetti has had at least 12 tackles in each of his last two games. ... Moody is tied for fourth in the WVIAC with 5 touchdowns ... Griffin WRs D.J. Carter (618 yards) and Niko Hall-Brown (613 yards) lead the WVIAC in receiving yards ... Carter earned first-team All-WVIAC honors at West Liberty in 2010 but did not play football last year. ... After going 10-3 with a victory against American International in the 2008 NCAA Division II playoffs, Seton Hill has won just 4 of its last 46 games. ... West Liberty, Shepherd and SHU are the only WVIAC schools to win an NCAA Division II playoff game.