Seton Hill (0-5, 0-3) is still looking for its first win of the year.
Don't pencil in West Virginia State as the conference champion yet, but it sure did seem like the Yellow Jackets turned an important corner on Saturday.
A week after pushing defending West Virginia Conference champion Concord to the brink in a 23-16 loss, State found itself trailing 13-0 at Seton Hill, a position in which the team would've likely folded in the past couple of years.
But credit State for holding the Griffins off the scoreboard the rest of the way, allowing quarterback Ricky Phillips and the offense to churn out enough points in an important 21-13 win, the first road win for the program since Sept. 20, 2008 at Charleston, spanning 20 games.
"On the road and coming from behind - it was a really big win for us," coach Earl Monroe said. "We had to make some adjustments on defense, but we were able to bend but not break. We had a couple of big stops early and made them kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns and the guys just kept fighting. In the past the ball always seemed to bounce the wrong way, but finally it bounced our way this week."
Phillips left the game in the second half but returned and hit Ervin Kent on a 26-yard scoring pass to ice the game late in the fourth quarter.
Phillips isn't the only one hurting though, as the defense has been ailing despite showing signs of vast improvement over years past.
Sophomore outside linebacker Billy Wade will miss the rest of the season coming off knee surgery and will request a medical redshirt. Freshman linebacker Charlie Thompson and sophomore backer T.J. Austin have also been injured, forcing freshmen Edward Blair IV and Charles Eskew III into action.
"We harp on not giving up the big play," Monroe said. "If you look at defenses from Division I to the pros, the offenses have gotten so complicated, it's hard to straight stop people. You have to be able to bend but don't break and eliminate big plays. If we can keep all plays 20 yards or less, even if they do a great job and are executing, people still have to drive against you. Then the score will still be manageable."
The Jackets (2-3, 1-1) will also be celebrating homecoming when they welcome in West Liberty at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers (2-3, 1-2) are coming off back-to-back conference losses to Fairmont State and Glenville State after beating West Virginia Wesleyan in the league opener.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.