Wheeling, W. Va. – It was a packed house on Thursday night at Bishop Schmitt Field as the Wheeling University Football team (1-0, 0-0) kicked off the 2022 season. The defense was the star of the night, allowing just 11 points and grabbing four interceptions to lead the team to a 25-11 win. It was the first time in program history that the team started a season 1-0 as they prepare for the start of Mountain East Conference play.
Early on, both defenses were stingy as the team's combined for just four points in the game's first 15 minutes. After Wheeling was forced to punt on the opening drive, the defense got started on the first Seton Hill drive of the night. Kelvin Bazemore jumped in front of a Griffin pass headed towards the end zone for his first interception of the season. Unfortunately, the offense couldn't take advantage as a Seton Hill safety gave them a 2-0 lead. On the following drive, Wheeling would March 46 yards down field before being turned over on downs on the Griffin 24-yard line. However the defense picked them up with a three and out and on the punt the snap flew over the Griffin's punter's head to tie the game at 2-2. The quarter would end with the 2-2 score in tact with both offenses trying to find their stride.
As the second quarter began, the defenses continued their dominance forcing three points and an interception on the first four drives of the quarter. Safety Masiah Thorne made a big leaping interception at midfield on Seton Hill's first drive of the quarter for his first career interception as Wheeling forced their second turnover on the night. After back-to-back punts, Wheeling got the ball in their hands with 2:55 to go and the score still sitting at 2-2. Javon Davis and the Wheeling offense drive 47 yards down to the Griffin 13 yard line with under a minute to play. On first and 10, Davis threw one up in the back of the end zone and wide receiver Chris Canaday went up and got it for the first touchdown of the night as Wheeling would take a 9-2 lead. The Griffins got the ball back with 43 Seconfs to go, but they couldn't put anything together as Wheeling went into the locker room ahead 9-2.
The Griffin's got the ball to start the second half, but Bazemore was back at it. On a Griffin 2nd and 15, they tried to throw a pass towards the end zone and Bazemore denied them again grabbing the interception at the four yard line, his second of the day. The Cardinals would end up going three and out on the ensuing drive and Seton Hill would respond with a field goal that made it a 9-5 game. On the ensuinv drive, Wheeling needed a response and they would get it. They went on a seven play drive that got them down to the Seton Hill 11 yard line. Davis would finish it from there scampering off the left tackle for an 11-yard touchdown run that made it a 16-5 Cardinal advantage. The Griffin's would put together one more touchdown drive before the quarter ended and, after a missed extra point, the score would sit at 16-11 in favor of Wheeling.
With the Cardinals up by five heading into the fourth quarter the goal was to take as much time off the clock as possible. They would do that and more az that put together an 18 play drive that took 10:07 off the clock. It ended with a Sy Alli three yard touchdown run that gave Wheeling a 23-11 lead. Even more important than that, it left Seton Hill with just four minutes in the clock to try and mount a comeback. Both teams would punt on their next drive and on Seton Hill's final drive of the night the Cardinals would add their final two points. The Griffins started the drive on their own 18 yard line and a Brandon Muñoz sack pushed them back nine yards. Two plays later, fellow defensive lineman Chase Nolan got in on the action, sacking the Seton Hill quarterback in his own end zone for a safety . It brought the game to its final score of 25-11 as the Cardinals went into victory formation to seal the win.
The offense was led by a strong ground game anchored by St Alli and Elijah Young. Alli netted 110 yards on 26 carries while Young added 10 carries for 57 yards. The ground game picked up a total of 211 yards and was the lifeblood of the offense throughout the day. Javon Davis would go 9-25 in his Wheeling debut throwing for 91 yards and a touchdown. Leading the receiving corps was Jake Keenan, who had four catches for 52 yards. On the defensive side, Rich White III and Jason Simon led the way with 7.0 tackles each on the day. Kelvin Bazemore finished with two tackles to go along with his two interceptions and highlighted a defense that forced four turnovers on the night.
The Wheeling University Football team returns to action on Saturday, September 10th, when they hit the road for their MEC opener against Notre Dame College.