Late INT Foils West Liberty Comeback
WEST LIBERTY – The West Liberty University football team took another heartbreaking loss Saturday when Seton Hill picked off a Hilltoppers pass inside the Griffins 20 with less than 90 seconds remaining, preserving a 26-22 victory in the 16th annual Alumni Scholarship Bowl.
Facing a crucial fourth-and-1 from the Seton Hill 23, West Liberty (1-8 overall, 1-6 West Virginia Conference) followed a Seton Hill (1-8, 1-6) timeout with one of its own.
”We knew if they came with pressure, the narrow slant was going to be there,” WLU coach Roger Waialae said. ”They defended it the same way they had all day but we just didn’t execute.”
Hilltoppers QB L.D. Crow had hit a number of big plays on similar calls earlier in the game but this time his quick toss wound up in the hands of Seton Hill linebacker Rodney McMath, who dropped to the turf with the interception at his own 18 with just 1:29 remaining.
The Griffins couldn’t move the sticks on the ensuing possession but with just 4 seconds showing on the clock, QB D.J. Lenehan took the fourth-down snap and ran out of the end zone for a safety as time expired.
”It’s the same story,” an obviously frustrated Waialae said. ”We hurt ourselves with turnovers and we make too many mistakes. I said last week we have to be a smarter football team and we weren’t a very smart football team (Saturday).”
West Liberty had snapped a 13-13 tie early in the fourth quarter when Crow capped a nine-play, 73-yard drive with his third TD pass of the day, a perfectly thrown 7-yard fade to a leaping Marvin Murray for a 20-13 Hilltoppers lead at the 10:05 mark.
Seton Hill answered with Lenehan picking up all but the final yard of a 70-yard march through the air as Daniel Butler slammed in from a yard out on the eighth snap of the drive to knot the score at 20-20 with 6:14 to play.
A good kickoff return gave the WLU offense good field position but Crow coughed up the ball on a blind-side sack by blitzing Griffin linebacker Daniel Bautista, who recovered the ball at the West Liberty 32.
Lenehan finished off a short scoring drive with a 9-yard touchdown scamper but the Hilltoppers’ Marco Ricchetti blocked the PAT, keeping the deficit at 26-20 with 3:09 remaining.
A couple of quick completions by Crow moved the ball into Seton Hill territory and a roughing-the-passer penalty on fourth-and-10 from the 47 kept the drive alive and put the ball at the SHU 32, setting up the decisive final series.
Crow completed 25 of 42 passes for a 322 yards and three touchdowns while Schroeder had a career afternoon, hauling in 13 tosses for 180 yards – both career-highs – to lead all receivers.
Lenehan completed 20 of 30 passes for 322 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jeorge Valdovinos had five catches for 144 yards, including a 78-yard TD bomb at the end of the third quarter.
”Consistency was our biggest problem in preseason camp and that’s still the case,” Waialae said. ”We need all 11 players doing what they’re coached to do on every snap. If 10 players do what they’re supposed to do but one player doesn’t, it’s just not going to work. Football is a team game and all 11 guys have to work together.
”Ultimately, that’s my fault. I’m not going to blame the kids. We have to keep working and get this fixed.”
The Hilltoppers play host to Concord on Saturday in the final home game of the season. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Russek Field.
Former Hilltopper All-American Zach Amedro was honored at halftime. The leading passer in NCAA Division II history was presented with a framed West Liberty jersey and a proclamation was read proclaiming Saturday as “Zach Amedro Day” on the hilltop. … The Hilltoppers set a season-high with 25 first downs and tied a season-high with 388 yards of total offense. … L.D. Crow’s 322 passing yards and 3 TD passes were each career-highs. … This was Seton Hill’s first victory against West Liberty in seven tries