INSTITUTE - West Liberty notched its first shutout since 2008 Saturday with a 9-0 whitewash of West Virginia State at muddy Lakin Field.
Bryan Arbes banged home three first-half field goals and the Hilltoppers (2-1 overall, 2-0 Mountain East) used a swarming defensive effort to hold the Yellow Jackets (0-3, 0-2) to six first downs and 142 yards of offense in a dominating performance.
Field conditions deteriorated rapidly as the game went on because of the rain, heavy at times, which had soaked the Charleston area throughout the morning and continued for much of the day.
West Liberty struck first when quarterback Dylan Lagarde rolled left and lobbed a 45-yard bomb to Javon Murphy on the game's first play from scrimmage, giving the Hilltoppers a first down at the State 25. WLU picked up another first down but missed an open Dylan Potts over the middle for a would-be touchdown before settling for a 29-yard field goal by Arbes with 12:07 on the clock.
Special teams, a strength for the Hilltoppers throughout the early part of the season, set up West Liberty's next score when State's Romell Haley muffed a punt by Griffin Yocum and a hustling Kane Boroski recovered for West Liberty at the W.Va. State 21.
Kenjay Trueblood made it first-and-goal at the 5 with a twisting 11-yard run on second-and-5 from the 16 but State's defense came up with a goal-line stand to force a 19-yard field goal by Arbes for a 6-0 West Liberty lead at 11:40 of the second quarter.
Following an interception by William Merritt at the State 40, the Yellow Jackets drove 26 yards in 10 plays before turning the ball over on downs at the West Liberty 34. It was their longest drive of the day.
The Hilltoppers took over with just 1:21 left in the half and moved down the field behind Lagarde in the 2-minute offense.
A clutch 15-yard completion to Daree Goodwin on fourth-and-12 from the State 40 put West Liberty in scoring position at the 25 with seven seconds remaining. Lagarde was sacked on the next play as time expired but a facemask penalty negated the sack, giving West Liberty another first down at the State 13.
Arbes came on for his third field goal of the half, a 30-yarder, and the Hilltoppers went to the half with a 9-0 lead.
West Virginia State's best chance to get back into the game came early in the third quarter when West Liberty turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions. Each time, however, the Hilltopper defense came up big.
An interception by Haley gave State the ball at the West Liberty 45 but a penalty, a sack and two incompletions forced the hosts to punt the ball away from their own 48.
Two snaps later, Trueblood and Lagarde failed to connect on a handoff and the Yellow Jackets recovered at the West Liberty 20. Le'Floyd Phillips broke off an 11-yard run to the Hilltoppers 9 but two running plays netted one more yard and senior cornerback Rod White - the reigning MEC Defensive Player of the Week - intercepted Tyler Seals' third-down pass in the end zone to end the threat.
West Virginia State never entered West Liberty territory again with coach Roger Waialae turning more and more to his running game to chew up the clock and salt away the Hilltoppers' first shutout since a 46-0 rout of West Virginia Wesleyan on Sept. 27, 2008.
West Liberty ran the ball 53 times for 150 yards while Lagarde completed 17 of 35 passes for 168. True freshman Marty Bishop banged his way for 91 yards on 25 carries to lead all rushers while Potts was the game's leading receiver with seven catches for 68 yards. The Hilltoppers dominated time of possession, 35:22 to 24:38, and had a season-high 21 first downs.
State completed 6 of 14 passes for 35 yards - the lowest total by a WLU opponent since the turn of the century. The Yellow Jackets ran for 107 yards on 38 carries with Phillips picking up 66 yards on 15 attempts.
West Liberty returns home to play host to Concord on Saturday in the annual Hall of Fame Game.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Russek Field.