URBANA, Ohio -- The Urbana University football team defeated West Liberty 21-19 in Thursday night's opener at UU Stadium. The Blue Knights (1-0) snapped a four-game losing streak to the Hilltoppers (0-1) and recorded their first season-opening triumph since 2013.
Khaliq Muhammad (Peoria, Ariz./Scottsdale CC) electrified the crowd in his debut with a pair of 80-plus yard touchdowns in the first half, as the Blue Knights took advantage of three consecutive West Liberty turnovers to start the game.
After a pair of interceptions from Chris Richardson and Sherman Watson, the UU offense struck first as junior quarterback Eddie Stockett (McKeesport, Pa./McKeesport) hit Muhammad on a deep ball for an 85-yard touchdown strike to give UU a 7-0 lead with 3:14 left in the first quarter. Stockett finished the game 15 of 26 for 211 yards with a pair of TD passes and two interceptions. It was the McKeesport, Pennsylvania native's first career start under center.
At the start of the second quarter, the UU defense forced another turnover on the 11th play of a WLU drive as redshirt freshman Tobias Hailey Jr. pried the ball loose from a Hilltopper wideout at the goal line. UU linebacker Bozton Sanders scooped up the ball, ran 50 yards down the UU sideline and pitched a lateral back to Watson who added 17 yards to the return.
Then, UU missed a field goal attempt but two straight three-and-out stops by the Blue Knight defense led to a pair of touchdowns to extend the lead to 21-0. Muhammad returned a punt 83 yards to make it 14-0 and then Stockett hit junior transfer Jesse Bray (Springfield, Ohio/Ventura College) up the middle and Bray raced untouched 47 yards to the endzone on his first reception as a Blue Knight.
The Hilltoppers finally got on the board with five minutes left in the half on a two-yard plunge by quarterback Zach Phillips. WLU then tacked on a field goal in the final minute as the teams entered the break with UU leading 21-10.
After a WLU field goal made it 21-13 in the third, WLU made things interesting late in the fourth quarter after a 12-yard touchdown run with 3:41 left made it a two-point game. However, the UU defense, which came up big all night, put up one final stand as Onajai Davenport led a host of Blue Knights that stuffed the Hilltoppers' two-point conversion attempt.
In the second half, the pace slowed down and the Blue Knights only managed three first downs until the final drive, which included two game-clinching first down runs by Stockett and running back Isaiah Young.
UU totaled 315 yards on offense while the visitors put up 393 total yards. The Hilltoppers out-gained the Blue Knights 184-104 on the ground while UU had more success through the air (211-209).
Young and sophomore David Hickey combined for 98 rushing yards on 23 carries to lead the Blue Knight rushing attack. Senior Shemar Hooks grabbed a team-high four receptions for 26 yards as eight different players recorded a catch.
On defense, UU had 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. Juniors Mikal Toliver (seven tackles), Calvin Bransford (six tackles) and Davenport (two tackles) each got to the quarterback in the backfield. Hailey led the way with nine tackles while linebackers Duray Hall, L.A. Kelly and Sanders each produced eight tackles.
Phillips and running back Westbrook led WLU with 83 rushing yards, each. Wideout Ridge Durbin had 10 receptions for 66 yards while linebacker Cliff Clark paced the Hilltopper defense with 10 tackles.
Urbana travels to Fairmont State for a Week 2 matchup on Saturday, Sept. 8 in Fairmont, West Virginia. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. at Duvall-Rosier Field. The Fighting Falcons travel nearly 700 miles to open the season Friday night at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.
UU lost to FSU by three points, 27-24) in last year's meeting after the Falcons kicked a game-winning field goal with two seconds left on the clock. The Blue Knights are 1-4 against the Falcons all-time and 0-3 on the road.
Courtesy of the Urbana University Media Department and posted with their permission.
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