No. 8 Notre Dame Next Up for Hilltopper Gridders
Special 2 p.m. kickoff set for ‘Coach Bob Roe Memorial Game’
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – Fresh off its first shutout win in nearly a decade, the West Liberty University football team faces a big test on Saturday afternoon when it welcomes unbeaten and No. 8-ranked Notre Dame (Ohio) to West Family Stadium.
Saturday’s contest has been designated as the “Coach Bob Roe Memorial Game” in honor of the late Hilltopper coaching legend with a special 2 p.m. kickoff. Many of his former players will be on hand to participate in the tribute to the man who had such a huge impact on their lives.
A charter member of the West Liberty Hall of Fame, Coach Roe compiled a 50-24-6 record in nine seasons (1965-73) on the hilltop, highlighted by back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and runs to the NAIA national semifinals in 1970 and 1971.
This year’s Hilltoppers (1-1, 1-0) are coming off a 24-0 shutout win at Alderson Broaddus on Saturday. The West Liberty defense held AB to just 229 yards of total offense while racking up 13 tackles-for-loss and 7 quarterback sacks. It was the first shutout by a WLU team since a 9-0 blanking of West Virginia State on Sept. 21, 2013.
“I thought the defense played well,” veteran head coach Roger Waialae said. “We made a few mistakes but we were playing fast enough to overcome them. Special teams were good, as well. (Defensive end) Trevor Hoosier was huge on special teams. He handled all the long snapping and still got downfield to make tackles on the punts and he even blocked a punt.”
Offensively, QB Jamie Diven completed 9-of-22 passes for 167 yards and 2 TDs while TB Tyler Moler rolled up 105 rushing yards on just 15 carries as a balanced attack produced 24 points on 335 yards of total offense – 167 through the air and 168 on the ground.
Waialae still wants to see more consistency from his offense over the course of a game.
“We had almost all of our passing yards in the first half but we couldn’t run the ball at all,” Waialae said. “Then we came out and ran for more than 130 yards in the second half but only completed one pass. We need to put both pieces together.”
Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0) rolls into West Family Stadium off a deceptively-narrow 31-15 win at Wheeling last week. The three-time defending MEC champion Falcons forced six turnovers and raced out to a 24-0 lead in the third quarter before coasting to their 24th victory in the last 25 MEC games.
Coach Mickey Mental’s squad leads the nation in turnovers forced (9) and turnover margin (plus-4) through the first two games. The hyper-aggressive Falcon defense set the tone in the Wheeling game by forcing a fumble on the opening snap and returning it for a touchdown.
“It seems like their defense scores as much as their offense,” Waialae said. “That’s one reason they’re No. 8 in the country but they’re a complete football team with good running backs, an excellent offensive line, a veteran quarterback, and two good kickers.
“They never turn the ball over on offense so it’s imperative that our quarterbacks take care of the football. It’s tough enough to beat any team when you lose the turnover battle, let alone one of the top 10 teams in the country.”
The Black and Gold’s plan for Saturday is to try to beat the Falcons at their own game.
“We have to turn the tables on them,” Waialae said. “We need our defense to force some turnovers and create scoring chances for the offense. We’ll shoot for a 50-50 run-pass mix, establishing the run but still look for chances to take a deep shot. The number one thing will be taking care of the ball. Notre Dame scores a lot of points with their offense on the sidelines and we can’t let that happen.”
West Liberty goes back on the MEC road next week with a Sept. 25 date at West Virginia Wesleyan.