BUCKHANNON — Two touchdowns on special teams and another on defense sparked West Virginia Wesleyan College to a 34-0 victory over West Liberty in the home opener Saturday at Cebe Ross Field.
The Bobcats are 2-0 for the first time since 2011. They are back in action on Thursday night at Fairmont State for the MEC Game of the Week.
“It is always easier to go into a short week after a win,” said second-year Wesleyan coach Del Smith. “We did some prep work with Fairmont State last week, but we will have our hands full with them. They are a very good team.”
Wesleyan bolted out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead against the Hilltoppers to take control early.
Just 2:31 into the contest, Jujuan Linzy put the Bobcats on the board when he returned a West Liberty punt 72 yards. Tyler Fischer tacked on the kick to make it 7-0.
Linzy, a freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio, was the MEC Special Teams Player of the Week.
After the Hilltoppers were forced to punt again on their second possession, this time from their own 18-yard line, Wesleyan got another score on special teams when Kobe Vinegar blocked the punt and teammate Anthony Robinson jumped on the loose ball in the end zone. Fischer again drilled the conversion kick to extend the lead to 14-0.
“We put a lot of emphasis on special teams,” Smith said. “We were confident we might be able to get a blocked punt this weekend. And Linzy has done a nice job of fielding the football for us. He has come up big for us in both games this season.”
Wesleyan’s offense finally got onto the field nearly seven minutes into the contest and the unit responded with another score when Linzy hauled in a 22-yard pass from Ryan Deal to cap off a nine-play, 56-yard drive. The PAT kick failed, however, keeping the margin at 20-0.
Late in the second quarter, Wesleyan’s defense found the end zone, as Cody Goode forced a fumble and Brandon Grayson raced 40 yards to make it 27-0 after Fischer’s conversion kick.
Deal added a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Lewis Jr. on the first play of the fourth quarter for the lone touchdown of the second half. Fischer’s PAT kick set the final score at 34-0.
Smith’s said the Bobcats’ strategy in the second half was ball control on offense. Wesleyan finished the day with just 289 yards of total offense, 159 passing and 130 on the ground, but didn’t commit any turnovers and held the edge in time of possession.
“When you get a lead like we did today, you don’t have to be aggressive,” he said. “A game like this you want to eat some clock and make West Liberty earn it. You don’t feel the need to take risks with a big lead.”
Oklahoma transfer Devin Montgomery had 67 yards rushing on 17 attempts, while Deal completed 13-of-19 passes for 159 yards and two scores. Lewis Jr. hauled in three catches for 48 yards.
West Liberty (1-1 overall and 1-1 MEC) finished the afternoon with 255 yards of total offense. It was the first shutout recorded by Wesleyan since the official formation of the MEC in 2013.
Jeremiah Ortiz had a game-high 109 yards rushing on 20 totes to lead the Hilltoppers. Brent Colabella completed 16-of-27 passes for 132 yards with one interception.
Goode and Grayson each had eight tackles to lead the Bobcat defense, while Goode and Davvari Gill recorded sacks and Nate Simmons picked off a pass in the end zone.
“Coach [Dwayne] Martin put together a solid game plan today [on defense] that complemented our personnel,” Smith said. “We’re a pretty deep defense this year with the ability to put a lot of players on field. The ability to stop the run was critical for us today. We jumped in front of them early, and in games like this, it is easier to call a defense when the other team is forced to play catch-up.”
West Liberty 0 0 0 0 — 0
Wesleyan 20 7 0 7 — 34
WVWC — Jujuan Linzy 72 punt return (Tyler Fischer kick), 12:29
WVWC — Anthony Robinson recovered block punt in end zone (Fischer kick), 10:18
WVWC — Linzy 22 pass from Ryan Deal (kick failed), 4:43
WVWC — Brandon Grayson 40 fumble return. (Fischer kick), :40
WVWC — Kenny Lewis Jr. 27 pass from Deal (Fischer kick), 14:54
RUSHING: West Liberty, Jeremiah Ortiz 20-109; Braxton Gamble 6-31, Kyle Ritz 1-5, Tyriq Dorsett 4-3, Lukas O’Connor 1-(-13), Brent Colabella 5-(-25). WVWC, Devin Montgomery 17-67, Dante Satcher 11-37, Tra Jackson 4-14, Luke Casey 3-13, Deal 4-0, TEAM 1-(-1).
PASSING: West Liberty, Colabella 16-27-132-1, Lukas O’Connor 2-4-13-0. WVWC, Deal 13-21-159-0.
RECEIVING: West Liberty, Osman Kargbo 3-62, Trevor Hardesty 3-34, Ian Kelly 4-25, Isaiah Robinson 2-16, Aaron Farmer 1-4, Theodore Mayo 1-3, Jaquan McCullough 2-3, Braxton Gamble 2-(-2). WVWC, Lewis Jr. 3-48, S. Dewdney 2-48, Linzy 1-22, Dante Satcher 2-20, Jaylend Jones 1-9, Montgomery 2-7, Derek Drapen 1-4, Kam Brooks 1-1