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Defense excels as Cavaliers win first MEC game in school history

WISE, Va. - UVa-Wise limited West Virginia State to 214 total yards and score eight defensive points as the Cavaliers secured the school’s first ever Mountain East Conference victory with an 18-10 victory at Smith Stadium on Saturday. The victory snapped an eight game losing streak for the Cavs and sent the Yellow Jackets to their 14th consecutive loss.

Following a first quarter that featured three turnovers, UVa-Wise (1-7, 1-5 MEC) a 3-0 lead when Paul Melshen booted a 27-yard field goal with 12:29 to go in the second quarter. Less than three minutes later, the host would take a 10 point lead on a 55 yard touchdown completion from Cullen LaVoi to James Long and extra point from Melshen.

West Virginia State (0-8, 0-7) scored its first points of the game with 9:40 to go in the third quarter on a 24-yard field goal by Josh Reuber. The score would remain 10-3 until late in the third quarter. The Yellow Jackets stopped the Cavs on a fourth and goal from inside the two yard line to take on over downs. The next score in the game would soon follow as UVa-Wise stopped West Virginia State tailback LeFloyd Phillip in the end zone for a safety to take a 12-3 lead.

Less than two minutes deep in the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets would cut the deficit to two as Josh Wade finished off a seven-play drive with a five-yard touchdown scamper. Reuber would add the extra point to cut the lead to 12-10 with 13:37 to play.

Following unsuccessful offensive possessions, UVa-Wise would extend the lead to eight with less than two minutes to go on a sack and subsequent strip in the end zone that would be recovered by Stephen Boyer. The extra point try would never be attempted following a botched snap.

On the Yellow Jackets final drive, the Cavs forced the visitors to a fourth and 21 from the Jackets’ 25-yard line. West Virginia State quarterback Tyler Seals would find Shannin Bennefie at the 45-yard line, Bennefie would stretch the ball in effort to pick up the first down. On the stretch, Bennefie would fumble and the Jackets recovered the ball for what would have been first down yardage. However, the officials ruled that from where the fumble occurred it would not have been enough yardage for the first down. Thus, giving the Cavs the ball with a minute to play and an eight point lead and sending the host to victory formation.

In total, Zach Cochran rushed for 85 yards on 21 carries to lead the offensive attack. As a team, UVa-Wise rushed for 115 yards, the first 100 plus yard rushing game of the season. Through the air, LaVoi completed 14 of 25 passes for 172 yards and a score. Long hauled in eight passes for 121 yards and the touchdown to move within 13 yards of the single-season receiving yardage record of 1,058 currently held by former All-American receiver Jason Lovett.

On defense, the Cavaliers had a total team effort as 19 different players recorded a tackle. Michael Bowyer led the team with 5.5 total stops while Boyer and Shaheim Harris each finished with 1.5 sacks and Christian DeJarnette collected a solo sack.

Next week, UVa-Wise will travel to Athens, W.Va. to face Concord University in a 2 pm kickoff. You can hear the action live on 93.5 WAXM or online at www.uvawisecavs.com.

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