CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston was able to register its first win of the season and West Virginia State fell in its home opener under first-year coach Jon Anderson on Saturday, but both may have found a couple of things that should help them the rest of the season.
First and foremost, both teams registered by far and away their best defensive efforts of the young season.
Consider, the Yellow Jackets limited an albeit already offensively challenged West Liberty team to just nine points while forcing two interceptions and two fumbles, making two sacks and breaking up six passes.
When the Hilltoppers did threaten, State was able to hold West Liberty to three field goals in seven trips to the red zone.
That effort kept an even more anemic State offense in the game until the end in a 9-0 defeat in sloppy conditions in Institute.
"Anytime playing in conditions that are less than great like they were, it favors the defense and you saw that on both sides of the football on Saturday," Anderson said. "We created four [turnovers] and had three so we ended up plus-1, so we won that battle.
"I'm really happy with what the defense did. They went 3 for 7 in the red zone and to only give up three field goals is outstanding."
The Golden Eagles (1-2 overall, 1-0 Mountain East), meanwhile, were able to capitalize on a defensive effort that included two touchdowns, five interceptions, nine pass breakups, a pair of sacks and 10 tackles for loss in a 38-15 conference win at Virginia-Wise.
UC's Torie Wagner and Bam Harrison returned interceptions 11 and 25 yards, respectively, to the end zone, accounting for more touchdowns than Virginia-Wise's offense mustered all day.
Golden Eagles coach Pat Kirkland said he expects his defense to lead the team all season.
"That's where our experience is, on that side of football," Kirkland explained. "We have eight of 11 starters back from last year's team and we expect those guys to perform. Five interceptions and two for touchdowns was certainly a step in the right direction."
In addition to stingy defenses, both State (0-3, 0-2) and Charleston found much-needed boosts to their running games.
After totaling just 37 yards on 12 carries over the first two games, senior running back Leighton Settle romped for 128 yards on 17 rushes on Saturday as UC resembled its old self, piling up 227 yards on the ground.
Junior C.J. Stallworth received a bulk of the work early in the season but Kirkland said Settle has emerged as an every-down type of back for UC.