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Hilltoppers Set Sights on West Virginia Wesleyan

Photo Provided by WLU Athletics West Liberty quarterback Jamie Diven (17) hands the ball off to running back Tyler Moler (26).

WEST LIBERTY — The West Liberty University football team will be looking to get back to the .500 mark on Saturday when the Black and Gold head south to take on West Virginia Wesleyan.

Coach Roger Waialae’s Hilltoppers (1-2, 1-1) are on the rebound from a 51-10 loss to No. 7-ranked Notre Dame (Ohio) last week while the Bobcats (0-2, 0-2) are still seeking their first win of the season after falling just short in a 28-25 loss at Concord on Saturday.

West Liberty was its own worst enemy at times against the nationally-ranked Falcons, squandering several scoring chances with untimely turnovers – four of them inside the Notre Dame 20.

“We moved the ball pretty well between the 20s and gave ourselves multiple opportunities to stay in the game,” Waialae said, “but all comes down to executing fundamentals at game speed. Football is a team game and there’s a lot that goes into it.

“On our first interception, we just underthrew the route. The second one, the receiver was supposed to run a 3-step slant but he ran a 5-step slant and crossed behind the defensive back instead of in front. You can’t make mistakes like that against anyone and hope to have success, much less against one of the Top 10 teams in the country.”

Redshirt freshman QB Jamie Diven won’t be available this weekend after suffering a late-game injury against the Falcons. Graduate transfer Jack Allison, who had been working through some injury issues of his own while splitting time with Diven this season, is healthy enough to return to the starting lineup.

“Jack’s hand has been improving and he’s been throwing well in practice this week,” Waialae said. “I’d say he’s just about back to 100 percent now.”

Despite the final score, there were some positives in Saturday’s setback. Tyler Moler ran for 104 yards on 19 carries – his second straight 100-yard rushing game – while Isaiah Robinson hauled in a game-high 8 passes for 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.

It marked the first time West Liberty had produced a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in the same game since Dakota Conwell ran for 102 yards and Dan Monteroso caught 7 balls for 115 more in a 28-27 loss to UVa-Wise on Oct. 15, 2016.

“Our offensive line has been coming along and Moler has been a very pleasant surprise,” Waialae said. “Isaiah is close to emerging as the elite receiver we’ve known he could be. Still had a couple of drops last week but he has been really aggressive to the football and a potential game-changer on special teams.”

Wesleyan racked up more than 400 yards of total offense and pitched a second-half shutout at Concord last week only to see an impressive rally fall short when a 21-yard game-tying field goal squirted wide right with under two minutes to play.

Bobcat QB Nathan Payne completed 19-of-36 passes for 214 yards and 3 TDs while a running back by committee approach netted 187 rushing yards on 44 tries. Devin Taylor caught four passes for 98 yards, including TD grabs of 68, 19 and 3 yards.

“Wesleyan has some big guys up front on defense,” Waialae said. “They’re very strong, fast and physical on that side of the football. Offensively, they try to get you with the RPO (run-pass option) but they have a couple fast receivers and aren’t afraid to take shots down the field.

“The truth is we need to focus more on what we do than what they do. We wasted opportunities against one of the best teams in the country last week. We need to create those opportunities again on Saturday, capitalize on them and get some momentum going for the rest of the season.”

Kickoff for the Mountain East Conference tilt is set for 1 p.m. at Cebe Ross Field in Buckhannon, W.Va.

Wheeling at Glenville State

The two teams have met just once previously with Glenville State winning 24-14. That game was played in Glenville. The Cardinals are going on the road for the second time this season. WU is coming off a season-high 28 offensive points last week against Alderson Broaddus, and also gave up a season-low six. Wheeling has committed 10 turnovers in three games, but also has eight takeaways. GSC has 25 completions this season with 12 of them going to Javon Butler for 224 yards and one touchdown. The Pioneers have rushed the ball 73 times in two games, but have just 147 rushing yards. The Pioneer defense has come up with 23 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks so far this season.

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