WLU Searching For First Victory
Battlers haven’t scored TD yet
WEST LIBERTY — The West Liberty University football team kicks off the Mountain East Conference portion of its schedule on the road Saturday with an afternoon trip to Alderson Broaddus.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Battlers’ 2,500-seat Multi-Sport Performance Stadium.
Both teams came out on the short end of defensive struggles in last week’s non-conference season openers. The Hilltoppers dropped an error-filled 27-6 decision to Walsh (Ohio) despite holding the Cavaliers to just 218 yards of total offense. The Battlers only surrendered one touchdown on the road at Mercyhurst (Pa.) but still fell shy by an 18-3 tally.
There were some bright spots for WLU in the season opener. Quarterbacks Jack Allison and Jamie Diven combined to complete 23 of 44 passes for 222 yards with senior WR Isaiah Robinson hauling in seven throws for 70 yards. Defensively, junior safety Shyoun Petteway had a career-high 10 tackles and five Hilltoppers were charted with at least one tackle-for-loss.
Despite a strong defensive effort, the Alderson Broaddus offense couldn’t get anything going against the Lakers. The Battlers finished with just 6 first downs and 86 yards of total offense. Quarterback Jaylen McNair, a Glenville State transfer, completed 11-of-18 throws for just 65 yards and was sacked five times. Anthony Billups ran for 41 yards on 10 carries.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, veteran head coach Roger Waialae will be looking to get the WLU running game off the ground. The Hilltoppers played at Alderson Broaddus in March during the MEC’s spring season and rolled to a 38-6 win behind a rushing attack that ran for 242 yards on 55 carries.
“We had some success against them in the spring,” Waialae said, “but they’re not the same kids we played against back then. (Illinois State transfer safety) Ga’Von Burks really impressed us on the Mercyhurst tape and it looks like they brought in some really fast guys on that side of the ball.”
All-MEC tailback Quincy Wimbish ran for 135 yards on 18 attempts against AB in March but didn’t see the field against Walsh after suffering a season-ending injury during the last week of preseason. His absence was felt last week as WLU was held to a net of minus-3 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
“Quincy going down so late in camp did have an impact,” Waialae said, “but it still comes down to being more efficient. We always try to be 50-50 in run-pass but we gave up 11 tackles-for-loss last week. That can’t happen. We have to get the running game going again. Once we do that, I think a lot of things will fall in place.”
Waialae said establishing consistency and avoiding mistakes were a primary focus in practice this week.
“We played hard against Walsh and I thought our defense played really well,” Waialae said. “We didn’t make many plays on offense and had too much inconsistency. You can’t turn the ball over and waste multiple opportunities in the red zone and expect to come away with a win.”
Special teams issues also contributed. Walsh’s 10 second-half points were set up by a pair of special teams fumbles. The Hilltoppers also missed two field goals and a PAT and saw a potential 14-point swing when the Cavaliers picked off a pass at their own 3 and ran it back 97 yards for a touchdown to go up 17-0 midway through the second quarter.
The 97-yard interception return highlighted the red zone woes for the Black and Gold on a very forgettable night. West Liberty had multiple snaps inside the Walsh 20 on five separate possessions but had only one touchdown to show for them. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, were a perfect 4-for-4 on red zone possessions.
“Whether it was a loss of focus during the game or whatever that turned things around, that’s not the football team we practiced with the whole month of August,” Waialae said. “If we just do what we’re supposed to do in those situations – the things we’ve done the entire preseason – we’ll be fine.”