West Liberty Preps for Night Game with Wesleyan

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he resurgent West Liberty University football team will be gunning for its third straight win Thursday night when West Virginia Wesleyan makes the trek to West Family Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

After struggling with consistency during the early part of the season, things seem to be falling in place for Coach Roger Waialae’s Hilltoppers (4-3, 4-2), who come into Thursday night’s game off back-to-back blowouts of Fairmont State (39-16) and Urbana (44-14). Last week’s 44 points at Urbana are the most by a West Liberty team since a 52-19 rout of West Virginia State midway through the 2012 season while the 83 points over the last two weeks is the highest consecutive-game total for the Black and Gold since the end of the 2010 campaign.
The continued development of sophomore QB Dakota Conwell has been a key factor in the Hilltoppers’ recent rise. Conwell completed 12 of his first 13 passes during the first half of last week’s rout at Urbana and is a sizzling 29-of-43 through the air for 484 yards with 7 TDs and only one interception over the past two weeks.
“I’ve been very pleased with the development of our passing game and Dakota’s improvement from week to week,” Waialae said. “We’re not just talking about Dakota, either. The ball is being spread around and we have a lot of guys stepping up to make plays when they have the opportunity to make plays.”
Junior TE Daree Goodwin had a breakout game at Urbana with 92 receiving yards on 3 catches – all for touchdowns. WR Dylan Potts and H-Back R.J. Thomas also had touchdown catches, WR Anton McCallum had a team-high 5 grabs for 59 yards and SS D’Andre Muhammed earned MEC Defensive Player of the Week laurels with a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown to go along with a sack and several big hits.
“Our offensive line has played well for us all year,” Waialae said. “The defense did a great job of forcing turnovers and getting us the ball in short-field situations and we started out something like 9-of-13 on third down conversions last week. We still need to do a better job running the ball and we still have room to improve in other areas. We certainly haven’t reached our peak or come anywhere close to what we’re capable of doing.”
Wesleyan (3-4, 3-4) had its two-game winning streak snapped in spectacular fashion in Buckhannon last week when unbeaten and No. 19-ranked Concord bounced back from a couple of early deficits and away to a 61-12 victory.
The Bobcats’ sub-.500 record is a bit deceiving as the four losses came to the four teams at the top of the MEC standings – Concord, Shepherd, Charleston and Notre Dame – who boast a combined record of 23-5.
Senior QB Jeremy Musselman missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury last week and it showed as Wesleyan was held to less than 150 yards of total offense by the nationally-ranked Mountain Lions.
“He’s been out for a couple of weeks but I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays against us,” Waialae said. “He had a big game against us last year. We blew some coverages and they came from behind in the second half and beat us. They beat Glenville earlier this year. They beat (W.Va.) State without Musselman. They’re a pretty good football team.”
While Wesleyan employs a 3-3 stack defensive set similar to Urbana, Waialae says the Bobcats will present a different challenge for the Hilltopper attack.
“Urbana was a big, physical defense that did a good job of taking away the run,” Waialae said. “They blitzed on just about every down and it opened up some things for us in the passing game. Wesleyan is smaller on defense but a lot faster. They usually just send 3 guys and drop 8 into coverage so this is another game where we’re going to have to make some adjustments with the offense.”
Freshman corners Terrance Baldwin and Allen Hall went down with injuries against Urbana but even though the Hilltoppers will be reshuffling their youthful secondary again, Waialae expects another strong defensive effort.

“Everybody is dealing with injuries at this time of year,” Waialae said, “but the kids who are getting the chance to play are taking advantage of the opportunity. Last week was our best defensive game. D’Andre (Muhammad) is getting better every week at strong safety, we forced a lot of turnovers and the entire defensive front played well again. We were able to take away the run and make Urbana one-dimensional. We need to do the same thing with Wesleyan.”

GAME NOTES
X West Liberty has a 3-2 record in night games under Waialae
X The Hilltoppers hold a 35-23-1 lead in the all-time series with Wesleyan but the Bobcats have won 3 of the last 4
X After being outscored in the first half, 98-42, in its first 5 games, WLU has posted a whopping 57-3 first-half scoring advantage over the past 2 weeks
X West Liberty forced 6 Urbana turnovers in last week’s win. Wesleyan has committed only 8 turnovers all season (2 fumbles, 6 int.)
X Wesleyan senior QB Jeremy Musselman has completed 47-of-72 passes for 638 yards and 5 TDs with no interceptions in his last two starts against WLU
X Despite their sub-.500 record, the Bobcats have held the lead at some point in each of their first 7 games

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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