WHEELING — West Virginia Roughriders linebacker Brian Price feels right at home inside WesBanco Arena.
The 6-foot-4 ballhawk racked up another Pick 6 to his name on Friday night — the third straight home game in which he has taken an interception to the house.
Price also delivered a clutch sack at the goal line to prevent a score as the Roughriders defeated the New England Bobcats, 41-22, to improve their record to a spotless 5-0.
“The fans bring such a lively atmosphere and they make it fun to play at home,” Price said of his success on home turf. “They bring the energy that I feed off of and it shows.”
Price’s key moment came late in the fourth as he tipped a pass to himself and finally grabbed it with one hand near the Bobcats’ end zone. The rest was history as he raced 49 yards to paydirt.
Robert Sands and Davon Dixon also collected interceptions for West Virginia, with Sands’ pick setting up a 43-yard scoring drive.
The Roughriders defense came up big with its back against the wall, as well.
As the Bobcats (2-1) were looking to cut it to a one possession game at the 1-yard line before halftime, Price and Joe Phillips delivered back-to-back sacks to force a turnover on downs and stop the threat.
“When times get tough you have to come together as a family and unite,” Price said of the defensive stand. “We just try to make a play when we need to make a play to put each other in the best position to win and that’s what we did.”
Another goal line stand early in the third was sparked by a Harold Love sack.
“The defense played well in the red zone,” Roughriders coach Mook Zimmerman said. “That’s where we really dig in and focus on being sharp and being successful.
“They moved around a little bit in between the 20s but I think we held our own inside the red zone and that’s all that matters.”
Bobcats’ quarterback Giovanni Sanders was a concern coming into the game for his ability to run. He finished with 137 yards passing and was limited to 56 yards rushing.
“He is mobile and has great feet and a lot of wiggle,” Zimmerman said. “We just tried to break down in front of him and keep him contained and squeeze the pocket a little bit and try to prevent him that way.”
Price added “We switched up the defense a little bit and tried to stay at home and then drop back into coverage just to mix it up and give him a different look.
“He definitely had some plays where he broke it. He is a small and slippery guy but we just tried to contain him and do the best we could and we came up with the win.”
New England’s only lead of the contest came on a pick six of its own as Keon Robinson grabbed a Jarrett Brown pass — intended for Noel Devine in the end zone — and darted 48 yards for an early 6-0 edge.
The Roughriders quickly responded as Madonna graduate and fan favorite Connor Arlia hauled in a pair of passes for 30 yards and a score on the next drive.
Standout receiver Larry Beavers Jr.’s 10th touchdown grab of the campaign extended the lead to 13-6 on the first play of the second quarter and a Jeryl Christian 1-yard plunge put the cushion at 21-6 heading into the half.
Devine brought the West Virginia crowd to its feet in the second half. The WVU product caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Brown for the third quarter’s only score.
After a New England touchdown to start the fourth, Devine did what he does best — run.
The 5-8 speedster took the ensuing kickoff deep in his own end zone and struck for a 57-yard return for a touchdown that had all Roughriders fans on their feet and cheering.
“We all understand how explosive he is when he gets the ball,” Zimmerman said of Devine. “He doesn’t get many opportunities because they kick it out of bounds and away from him but we know once he gets it, about nine out of 10 times he is going to take it back to the house.
“We’re always excited to see him get the ball in his hands.”
Brown completed 15 of his 29 passes for 155 yards. Arlia and Beavers each secured six receptions for 71 and 40 yards, respectively.
Devine was good for four receptions and 69 yards.