FAIRMONT, W.Va. The West Liberty University offense struck for three touchdowns while the Hilltoppers' defense and special teams came up big time after time here Saturday as WLU spoiled Fairmont State's Homecoming festivities with a 27-21 victory at Duvall-Rosier Field.
"We still have a lot of work to do but our offense is getting better," West Liberty head coach Roger Waialae said. "We got another great effort from our special teams and our defense came through for us again. This was a good team win."
After battling to a 14-14 tie at intermission, the Hilltoppers (3-3, 3-1) took control of the game in the third quarter.
With the West Liberty defense holding the host Falcons (2-4, 1-4) to just 4 yards of total offense in the period, Bryan Arbes put the visitors ahead to stay, 17-14, with a 44-yard field goal with 3:09 left in the quarter. The go-ahead score was set up by an Andrew Faraimo interception which gave the WLU offense the ball inside Fairmont territory.
Defense and special teams combined to set up the next score as a Griffin Yocum punt pinned the Falcons deep in their own end of the field late in the quarter. After a 3-and-out from the West Liberty defense, Isiah Moody's 18-yard punt return gave WLU the ball at the Falcon 34. Three snaps later, Arbes boomed a 42-yarder between the pipes for a 20-14 lead with 12:14 left.
in the fourth quarter.
The Hilltoppers all but put the game out of reach on their next possession, marching 61 yards on just 5 plays with Dylan Potts hauling in a 9-yard scoring toss from Dylan Lagarde for a 27-14 lead with just 7:21 remaining.
The Falcons made things interesting, closing the gap to 27-21 on a 16-yard TD pass from Cooper Hibbs to Fabian Guerra with 5:47 remaining, but the WLU defense proved equal to the challenge as Fairmont drove into Hilltopper territory twice in the final 5 minutes but never got past the WLU 45.
West Liberty had sandwiched its first two rushing TDs of the season a 1-yard plunge by Marty Bishop and a spinning 13-yard spurt by Shavonta Craft around a 55-yard TD pass from Hibbs to Daniel Marc-Sears for a 14-7 lead in the first minute of the second quarter. The Falcons forged the 14-14 halftime tie when Hibbs flipped a 9-yard TD pass to Sharmarte Banks along the back line of the end zone with 3:58 on the second quarter clock.
Fairmont State had more first downs (21-12) and more yards of total offense (306-233) to go along with a whopping 35:04-24:56 advantage in time of possession. Hibbs completed 22-of-40 passes for 273 yards and 3 TDs but had 3 costly interceptions. Guerra led all receivers with 9 catches for 114 yards but the Falcon ground game was held to 33 net yards on 38 carries as the WLU defense racked up 5 sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss.
Lagarde completed 12-of-23 passes for 164 yards and a TD with no interceptions. Potts had 6 grabs for 87 yards while Moody led the rushing attack with 50 yards on 18 carries.
Up next for the Hilltoppers is a visit from Urbana (4-2, 4-1) in a showdown for second place in the MEC. Kickoff in West Liberty's annual Homecoming game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at historic Russek Field.