WEST LIBERTY - One of the nation's top quarterbacks crashed West Liberty's Homecoming party Saturday afternoon as Urbana's D.J. Mendenhall fired four touchdown passes and racked up more than 300 yards of offense to help the Blue Knights pull away to a 32-13 victory at a rainswept Russek Field.
Mendenhall, a senior preseason All-American who is rapidly approaching the 10,000-yard career passing milestone, completed 21 of 35 passes for 255 yards and four touchdowns with an interception. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder also tacked on 48 rushing yards on nine carries without giving up a single sack.
"He had a great game against us passing and running," West Liberty coach Roger Waialae said. "He really manages the game well for them, as you'd expect from a senior and a four-year starter, and they executed very well. That's a good football team."
West Liberty’s Kenjay Trueblood led all rushers with 19 carries for 96 yards in Saturday’s loss to Urbana.
Urbana (5-2 overall, 5-1 MEC) drew first blood, taking the opening kickoff and marching 70 yards in eight plays. Mendenhall covered the final 23 yards with a TD pass to Joe Webb for a 6-0 lead when the PAT sailed wide right.
The Hilltoppers (3-4, 3-2) controlled field position for the rest of the quarter, however, and took full advantage.
Bryan Arbes cut the lead in half with a 42-yard field goal at the 7:25 mark and West Liberty took a 10-6 lead when Dylan Lagarde flipped an 8-yard TD pass to WR Daree Goodwin with one tick remaining in the quarter.
That lead proved short-lived as Mendenhall hit Webb on a quick slant and the speedy senior wideout split the secondary for a 53-yard touchdown. Holder Nate Wilburn-Ogletree bobbled the snap on the PAT attempt but scrambled to his right to find tackle-eligible Kyle Ferguson in the corner of the end zone for a 2-point conversion and a 14-10 lead.
Mendenhall, who threw for nearly 200 yards in the first half, made it 21-10 before halftime when he hit Marc Johnson in stride on a post route for a 30-yard TD with 1:07 left in the half but West Liberty wasn't finished. Aided by several penalties against Urbana, the Hilltoppers moved the length of the field in the waning seconds of the half. A 22-yard Arbes field goal made it a one-score game, 21-13.
Penalties were a major factor in the game as Urbana, which leads the MEC in penalties by a wide margin, was flagged a staggering 24 times for 219 yards while West Liberty had nine penalties for 103.
"The difference was that they (Urbana) were able to overcome their mental mistakes and penalties and we weren't," Waialae said. "We had a couple of things going in the second half but put ourselves behind the sticks with a penalty or something and couldn't recover."
An exchange of punts and a couple of penalties pinned the Blue Knights deep in their own territory early in the second half, giving the Hilltoppers a golden opportunity. After picking up a first down at the Urbana 10, West Liberty's drive stalled at the 7 and Arbes came on for a short field goal attempt. Unfortunately, the wet ball squirted through the holder's hands on the snap and Arbes was snowed under at the Blue Knight 17 after picking up the loose ball.
Mendenhall came on to lead a nine-play, 83-yard scoring march, capping it with his fourth TD pass of the day - an 11-yard bullet to Webb over the middle. Webb, who came into the game ranked No. 3 nationally among all active receivers with more than 3,000 career yards, finished with 141 yards and 3 TDs on eight catches.
A holding penalty forced West Liberty into a thee-and-out and Mendenhall returned with an 11-play, 53-yard foray that set up a 23-yard field goal by Blaine Hafner for a 32-13 lead with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter.
The Urbana defense was in control the rest of the way, holding the Hilltoppers to 68 yards of total offense in the second half. West Liberty didn't throw an interception for the second straight game but completed only 5 of 18 passes for 20 yards during the final two quarters.
West Liberty's Kenjay Trueblood led all rushers with 19 carries for 96 yards. Lagarde completed 10 of 35 passes for 61 yards and a TD. Kordarius Rice was WLU's leading receiver with three catches for 60 yards.
WAYNESBURG, Pa. - Again it came down to a field goal.
Last season the Bison were defeated by Waynesburg University on a last second field goal. This season, it was once again a field goal that turned the tide, but in a different way. With 2:27 remaining in the game, and the contest tied at 20-20, sophomore Dion Williams blocked a 26-yard field goal attempt, and sophomore Eric Blinn scored the game-winning touchdown eight plays later to give Bethany a victory in Waynesburg.
With a fourth-down on the Bison 8-yard line, the game looked as if it were going to repeat the outcome of last year, with the Yellow Jackets taking the lead late on a field goal. However, the Bison line made a great push and Williams blocked the kick. Wyssmy Despagne recovered the ball at the Bison 2, and Bethany was in business with the score tied, 20-20, and 2:20 remaining in the contest.
Out of timeouts, with 98-yards to reach pay-dirt, the Bison offense never lost focus. Matt Grimard got Bethany out of the shadow of its own end zone with a 14-yard scamper to the 16. Three plays later, on a third-and-10, Grimard hit on an 18-yard strike to Carter Hill for a fresh set of downs. After back-to-back incomplete passes, and just under 30 seconds to play, Bethany once again found itself looking at third-and-10.
Grimard dropped back to throw and found Blinn for the first-down yardage. However, Blinn didn't stop there, shaking off two defenders, and cutting up-field. Five yards later, Blinn turned on the jets and no one in an orange jersey could catch him as he went 68-yards for the go-ahead score, 27-20, with 20 seconds to play in the contest. It was the second touchdown connection for Grimard and Blinn on the day.