Shepherd's 17-16 loss to West Liberty last week has made the West Virginia Conference football race a little more intriguing, especially for the University of Charleston.
No conference team is unbeaten in league play, and the Golden Eagles (6-1 overall, 3-1 WVC) are one of three teams with just one conference loss, along with Shepherd (5-2, 4-1) and Glenville State (3-4, 3-1).
With its only loss coming to Shepherd, UC could need to run the table and get some help in the form of another Rams setback to have a shot at the conference title. That quest continues Saturday when the Golden Eagles visit West Liberty (4-3, 3-2) for a 1 p.m. game.
UC has won three in a row since the 16-10 loss to Shepherd on Sept. 22, including last Saturday's 42-30 victory at No. 24-ranked UNC Pembroke.
Equally impressive last Saturday, though, was West Liberty's upset win at home over Shepherd, which was ranked No. 25 in the NCAA Division II Top 25 poll. That loss - with the margin of victory being a missed extra point by Shepherd - knocked the Rams out of the poll, which no longer includes any WVC teams.
West Liberty has given UC fits in recent years, winning four straight years (2007-10) before the Golden Eagles prevailed 35-24 last year in Charleston.
Like UC's loss to Shepherd, West Liberty's win over the Rams last week was a defensive battle, with the Hilltoppers turning the tide on an interception return for a touchdown by Kenjay Trueblood.
Saturday's game at West Liberty will be the second of four consecutive road trips for UC, which will head to Glenville next week and Wesleyan on Nov. 3 before closing out the season at home against Kanawha Valley rival West Virginia State on Nov. 10.
Wins this week and next will keep UC in the WVC title hunt, but the Golden Eagles - or Glenville State, if the Pioneers defeat UC - will need some help in the form of a Shepherd loss down the road. The Rams come to institute to face West Virginia State (2-5, 1-3) Saturday and are off next week before finishing up with home games against Glenville State on Nov. 3 and Fairmont State (2-4, 2-2) on Nov. 10.
Shepherd has won the last five meetings with West Virginia State, with an average margin of victory at 37 points.