Urbana's Marc Johnson turns the corner on West Virginia State's William Merritt (20) and Omar Agel (47).
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- NFL scouts of late have been keeping tabs on Urbana University senior D.J. Mendenhall, a quarterback on the cusp of elite Division II company."The guy from the Packers may have come to this game,'' Urbana coach David Taynor was saying late Saturday afternoon at Lakin Field. "He said he was going to try and make it. If not, this would be the first game where we didn't have one, if not two or three scouts.''In light of all the attention and assorted accolades, Mendenhall and the Blue Knights look to be solid contenders in the new Mountain East Conference and at the moment are probably a bit too much for a West Virginia State team undergoing a major restructuring.The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Mendenhall delivered six touchdown passes, scattering them around pretty much at will, in leading the western Ohio school to a 62-10 victory over the Yellow Jackets Saturday afternoon in Institute. A homecoming crowd of about 2,000 attended.
In hurrying out to a 48-0 halftime lead, the Blue Knights (3-2, 3-1 MEC) piled up 432 yards of offense and limited State to minus 19 and no first downs, never allowing the Jackets to move past their own 45 in the game's first 30 minutes. For the game, Urbana totaled 637 yards.The State offense began clicking somewhat after halftime, highlighted by Tyler Seals' 32-yard touchdown pass to Shanin Bennefield with 8:56 left in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 55-7. Two plays earlier, Seals hit Julius Bradley on a 44-yarder to set up the score. The touchdown was State's first since its opening game against Lock Haven.The Yellow Jackets picked up 232 second-half yards, giving them 213 for the game, but yielded eight sacks overall for 50 yards in losses. State's Josh Reuber kicked a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.Mendenhall, a first-team USA College Football preseason All-American, completed 17 of 23 passes for 297 yards and an interception - by Romell Haley - and carried twice for 43 yards. A two-time player of the year in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, Mendenhall entered the game as the MEC passing leader with 1,368 yards and 11 touchdowns."I think we've had 17 of the 32 NFL franchises in to watch film on him over the last two years,'' said Taynor. "He's been a great ambassador for our program and our university.''State (0-5, 0-4 MEC) lost its first five games by an average score of 33-5 and has lost its last 11."Right now, we're looking for guys who give maximum effort,'' said first-year State coach Jon Anderson. "Those are the guys we're moving forward with. And those are the guys we will continue to play, the effort guys.''Anderson saw glimmers of hope."We were able to do some things and move the football in the second half,'' he said. "There was no change in the scheme. We were just asking the guys to play very hard and with great effort. We're learning who we can trust to play. We'll view this film, and in trying situations, effort stands out. I keep coming back to that word because right now if we don't play with effort, it doesn't matter who we play or what schemes we play. It starts right there. And we've been getting that off and on throughout the season.''Mendenhall entered the season needing 3,298 passing yards and 395 on the ground to reach career totals of 10,000 passing and 2,000 rushing and would be just the third quarterback in Division II history to do so.About half the players on State's two-deep roster are freshmen and sophomores.
"It's discouraging now, a little bit,'' said Anderson. "But when we go back and watch, there will be guys that show up on film as giving the effort that we can build around.''Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.