Fairmont Pays Visit to WLU

West Liberty returns to Mountain East Conference action Saturday when the Hilltoppers visit Fairmont State.

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Duvall-Rosier Field.

Each team comes into the game off a disappointing loss last Saturday.

West Liberty (2-3, 2-1) dropped a 27-14 decision at Division I (FCS) Duquesne when the Dukes scored three defensive touchdowns off WLU turnovers during a nightmarish 5-minute span of the opening quarter.

The Falcons (2-3, 1-3) played a near-flawless first half in jumping out to a 14-10 lead at MEC power Concord, but spent the final two quarters shooting themselves in the foot and came away on the short end of a 34-17 score.

“We have one of the best defenses in the country,” West Liberty coach Roger Waialae said, “but when the other team scores three touchdowns with your defense on the sidelines, you’re not going to win many football games.”

The Hilltoppers ran for more yards (116-113) and passed for more yards (195-193) than the Dukes while the defense had three interceptions against a Duquesne passing attack that came into the game ranked among the top 10 FCS teams in the nation.

Fairmont threw for 361 yards in last season’s 25-20 victory against West Liberty but first-year head coach Jason Woodman has gone with a more run-oriented offensive style while stepping up the tempo on defense.

The offense has blown hot and cold with a total of 93 points in the two victories and 38 in the three losses but the defense ranks No. 4 nationally with 15 forced turnovers and is tied with WLU for No. 8 in the nation with nine interceptions.

“It’s still pretty much the same personnel on defense but they’re much more aggressive playing out of a pro 3-4 than the stack. They’re always going to have an outside backer on the line and they’ll send as many as seven guys. We have to be ready to block that so our quarterback has a chance to get the ball out of his hand and take advantage of the ‘man’ coverage on our receivers.”

The Fairmont offense revolves around senior TB Dawrence Roberts, a late transfer who rushed for more than 1,100 yards at Grambling two years ago and was the 2012 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in the SWAC. Roberts has run for 464 yards and 3 TDs in 98 carries through the first five games.

Freshman QB Cooper Hibbs has completed just 52-of-112 passes for 559 yards and 7 TDs with 6 interceptions as the Falcons run the ball on 60 percent of their offensive snaps. Converted TB Chris St. Hilaire is the team’s leading receiver with 10 catches for 177 yards despite missing the last three games due to injury.

Despite allowing a season-high 27 points at Duquesne last week, West Liberty still ranks No. 7 nationally in scoring defense at 14.0 points per game.

West Liberty remains strong in special teams.. Kicker Bryan Arbes leads the MEC and ranks No. 8 nationally with eight field goals field goals and punter Griff Yocum leads the MEC and ranks No. 9 nationally with an average of 43.6 yards per punt. Eleven of Yocum’s 36 punts have been 50 yards or longer and 12 of them have pinned the opponent back inside their own 20

Fairmont State offensive line coach Mike Compton, a former All-American at West Virginia, was the starting center for New England in Super Bowl XXXVI. Compton’s son, Josh, won the Falcons’ starting job at tight end as a redshirt freshman this fall after transferring from Lenoir-Rhyne this year.