The West Liberty University football team rallied from a 19-0
deficit here Saturday afternoon but couldn't hang on as Fairmont State
handed the Hilltoppers a 25-20 loss in a battle of West Virginia
Conference rivals at Duvall-Rosier Field.
An 83-yard touchdown
pass from Falcon QB Bobby Vega to wide receiver C.J. Goodwin in the
waning minutes of the third quarter erased a 20-19 West Liberty lead and
the Hilltopper offense was unable to answer against an aroused Fairmont
State (1-3, 1-1) defense.
West Liberty (2-2, 1-1)
had been held to just 9 yards of total offense and no first downs in the
second half before putting together a clutch drive in the final 2
The Hilltoppers got the
ball at their own 29 with just 2:35 remaining but two short completions
to Darrell Stanley produced the first stick-mover and quarterback L.D.
Crow then connected on 11-yard tosses to Marvin Murray and Brandon
Schroeder to cross midfield.
A late hit penalty
against Fairmont State gave WLU a first down at the Falcon 27 with just
over a minute remaining but Crow was sacked back at the 34 on the
With no timeouts, the
Hilltoppers had to spike the ball to stop the clock. Crow's next two
passes, delivered under heavy pressure, fell incomplete and the game was
Fairmont State entered
the game without its top three running backs due to injury. All-WVIAC
defensive back Ryland Newman filled in at tailback for most of the game,
as well, but the Falcons passed or tried to pass on nearly every snap.
The hosts benefited
from excellent field position throughout the first half and took full
advantage in jumping out to the 19-0 lead.
opened the scoring with a 36-yard Johnny Dears tine field goal and
tacked on two more points before the end of the first quarter when WLU's
Isiah Moody was tackled in the end zone after a punt was downed inside
the Hilltoppers' 1-yard-line.
Vega capped two short
scoring drives at the start of the second quarter with touchdown passes
of 13 yards to Chris St. Hilaire and 5 yards to Matt Wilmer, producing
the 19-0 lead with 10:25 on the second quarter clock.
The Hilltopper defense
turned the momentum around when Marco Ricchetti picked off a Vega pass
deep in Fairmont territory and ran it back to the FSU 5 before being
tumbled out of bounds. Crow muscled into the end zone from a yard out to
cut the lead to 19-6.
Late in the half, West
Liberty's defense forced Fairmont to punt out of its own end zone and
the Hilltoppers took over on the Falcon 39.
the clock as well as the FSU defense, West Liberty cashed in
4th-and-goal from the 2 when Moody took a pitch from Bo Whitney and
dragged two Fairmont defenders into the end zone just 28 seconds before
the halftime horn.
The Hilltopper defense
picked up where it had left off in the second half when Andrew Faraimo
stripped the ball out of a Falcon receiver's hands at the FSU 22. Fellow
safety Jovontae Johnson scooped up the pigskin and darted down the
right sideline into the end zone for a 20-19 West Liberty lead at 13:54
of the third quarter.
Both offenses struggled
for the remainder of the quarter until the hosts caught lightning in a
bottle with what proved to be the decisive play of the game.
Backed up to his own 17
after a West Liberty punt and FSU personal foul, Vega found Goodwin
behind the Hilltopper secondary and the Falcon receiver won a footrace
to the end zone to complete an 83-yard scoring play at 1:55 of the third
quarter. The 2-point conversion failed but the Fairmont defense made
the 25-20 margin stand up.
Vega completed 34 of a
school-record 68 pass attempts for 386 yards and 3 TDs with 3
interceptions. St. Hilaire had 12 catches for 123 yards while Goodwin
finished with 104 receiving yards on 3 grabs. The Falcons were held to
28 rushing yards on 25 attempts as the WLU defense sacked Vega 5 times
for minus-41 yards.
West Liberty finished
with just 10 first downs and 161 yards of total offense. Crow completed
21-of-43 passes for 145 yards with 2 interceptions while the Hilltopper
ground game was held to 16 yards on 26 attempts. Stanley led the
receiving corps with 6 catches for 45 yards.
The Hilltoppers return home to host Glenville State in a 1 p.m. game on Saturday.