WKU takes on Charlotte in regular season finale

WKU’s Ty Storey (11), runs with the ball away from the Charlotte 49ers during the second quarter of the game on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Hilltoppers defeated Charlotte with a final score of 30-14.

Matthew Hargrove

The wait is over, as WKU (4-6), (3-3, C-USA) will in fact play their final regular season game of the season against Charlotte (2-3), (2-1, C-USA) University tomorrow afternoon.

Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. CT at Jerry Richardson Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. 

This is the second time the Hilltoppers matchup with the 49ers has been pushed back due to COVID-19 complications. The last scheduled game between these two was supposed to take place this past Tuesday morning.

“There is a little added stress there, there is some mental wear and tear there. But I think we’ve worked through that just fine,” head coach Tyson Helton said. “Football players are creatures of habit. Once the lights turn on, the ball is kicked off you pretty much go do your thing.”

After 14 days off from gameplay, it’s now time to focus back up for WKU with tomorrow’s game having a chance of getting the Hilltoppers in a bowl game for the program’s second straight year.

In order to give them that chance, WKU is having to get through a middle of the pack team by Conference USA standards.

The 49ers are No. 6 in C-USA in scoring, putting up 28.6 points per game, while allowing 31.6 points per game. Although the offense is much more elite than the Hilltoppers, WKU is allowing almost a touchdown less (24.6) per game, which might give them an edge in Sunday’s contest.

Charlotte’s junior quarterback Chris Reynolds has been having a great year for the 49ers, despite the continuous delays and cancellations to Charlotte’s schedule this season. The veteran has thrown for six touchdowns and is averaging 220 passing yards per game, which ranks No. 3 in C-USA. 

It doesn’t help the Hilltoppers offense that Reynolds has two pristine wide outs to throw to in redshirt junior Victor Tucker and sophomore Micaleous Elder. Tucker is averaging 57.8 receiving yards per game, with Elder averaging 49.0 per game.

“I would definitely say they are a difficult team to defend,” defensive coordinator Clayton White said. “Some teams have struggled against them, I will say one they have an experienced offensive skilled position back.”

In the backfield for the 49ers is Graduate Tre Harbison, who is a transfer from Northern Illinois. Harbison has had a very similar year to Hilltopper running back in senior Gaej Walker, in which the veteran is averaging just zero point two yards less on the ground than Walker with 51.4.

“I think they do a real good job of just mixing everything up,” redshirt senior defensive lineman Jermey Darvin said. “They really like to keep the defense on their P’s and Q’s and on edge.”

With the Hilltopper offense only averaging 17 points per game this season, it might have to come down to WKU’s defense to finish the job tomorrow.

In light of tomorrow’s anticipated event, the Hilltoppers have seen two of their quarterbacks announce their decision to enter the transfer portal in redshirt sophomore Kevaris Thomas and junior Davis Shanley.

“They’ve been really good for Western Kentucky, been loyal, so in turn we’re gonna try to do everything we can to help them,” Helton said.

Despite leaving the program, Thomas will still be in play to backup graduate Tyrrell Pigrome tomorrow according to Helton. Thomas won’t be moving on from WKU till after the season is over.

Football beat reporter Matthew Hargrove can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewHargrov1