WISE, Va. -- UVa-Wise held off West Virginia State with a 34-24 win over the Yellow Jackets on Thursday night at Carl Smith Stadium.
The Cavaliers improved to 2-0 (2-0 MEC) for the first time since 2008. The Yellow Jackets had their record evened at 1-1 (1-1 MEC).
UVa-Wise came up with a pair of critical turnovers in the game, the first was a Donavan Montague interception return for a touchdown to get the Cavs on the board, and Montague came up with another big interception in the fourth quarter as West Virginia State was looking for a game-tying or go-ahead score with 4:07 to play.
WVSU appeared to have forced a tie going into halftime after Dionta Brown caught a touchdown pass from Matt Kinnick with 1:46 left, but the Cavaliers answered just :42 seconds later when Brycen Lee hit James Cousins from 38 yards out to give UVa-Wise the 21-14 lead at the break.
The two teams traded scores in the third quarter, and West Virginia State's Aaron Ball hit a 24-yard field goal to pull the Yellow Jackets to within three at 27-24 with still 8:35 to go. The Yellow Jackets got the defensive stop they needed on UVa-Wise's next possession, but Montague's pick effectively ended the State rally. The Cavaliers went on to punch in another touchdown for the final 34-24 margin.
Lee finished 15-of-25 passing for 251 yards with two scores and an interception. Carlton Griffith rushed 10 times for 67 yards and a touchdown, and Kaian Duverger had four catches for 52 yards and a score.
Along with Montague, Ed Kargbo helped lead the defense with 14 tackles (nine solo) and Dylan Giovine had 10 stops and two sacks.
WVSU's Calil Wilkins piled up 201 yards rushing and had one touchdown for the Yellow Jackets. Kinnick finished 15-of-33 for 195 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Quinton Gray and Brown had touchdown catches. Trent Williamson led the defense with 10 tackles and a sack.
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