Hilltoppers explode offensively in season finale at Charlotte

Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Ricky Barber (50) signals a stop on defense against Charlotte on Dec. 6, 2020. WKU went on to win 37-19 versus the 49ers in the 2020 regular season finale. 

Matthew Hargrove

WKU (5-6), (4-3, C-USA) wraps up the 2020 regular season with a 37-13 victory on the road at Charlotte (2-4), (2-2, C-USA). 

For the second consecutive game, the Hilltoppers eclipsed 30 points in scoring after not doing so the entirety of the regular season. This was also WKU’s first win at Charlotte, in Jerry Richardson Stadium. 

Graduate quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome had a 146.7 quarterback rating in the win over the 49ers. He tossed for 218 yards and went 18-27 in the air in the road season finale. 

“I hope it does lead into a bowl game,” head coach Tyson Helton said. “I think if you look at the eleven games like we did and finish with a winning record in conference play, I feel like this team deserves a chance to try to go to a bowl game.” 

In the first quarter, senior running back Gaej Walker made sure that WKU was gonna start off on the right foot with his 53 rushing yards on the Hilltoppers first drive. 

Despite Walker’s efforts, WKU could not convert on fourth and goal at the Charlotte one-yard line, turning the ball over on downs.

The Hilltoppers still couldn’t reach the endzone on their next possession after another strong drive, yet this time WKU was able to get some points out of it. Redshirt sophomore Brayden Narveson hit a 33-yard field goal to give the Hilltoppers their first lead of the game at 3-0.

The WKU defense picked up right where they left off from their last game to begin the second frame and made their way into the endzone on a scoop and score. 

A bad snap caused redshirt junior punter Connor Bowler to fumble at the 49ers two-yard line, which was returned in for a touchdown by redshirt sophomore A.J. Braithwaite. 

Right before the half, WKU got another touchdown off a fumble, but it was from the Hilltoppers offensive side. 

Walker lost the ball at the Charlotte one-yard line, fortunately though for WKU redshirt senior offensive lineman Jordan Meredith picked it up in the end zone to increase the Hilltopper lead to three possessions.

The score at halftime was 17-0 WKU, with the Hilltoppers winning the yardage battle 243 to 25. 

Graduate quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome threw for 140-yards, while completing 80% of his passes in the first 30 minutes. Walker rushed for 76-yards on 14 carries.

The 49ers offense finally got going to begin the second half, coming out of the locker room with a 10 play, 75-yard touchdown drive. A five-yard touchdown throw from junior Chris Reynolds to sophomore wideout Micaleous Elder put Charlotte on the board, and cut the deficit to 10.

WKU answered back with a 29-yard run into 49ers territory from Pigrome, which led to a 46-yard Narveson field goal to move the score to 20-7 halfway through the third quarter.

A few minutes later, Pigrome led a five play, 59-yard possession that increased the Hilltopper lead even more. Pigrome found junior wideout Mitchell Tinsley on a three-yard pass to put WKU up 27-7 heading into the last 30 minutes of the regular season.

The Hilltoppers started the fourth quarter with the third field goal of the day from Narveson, with this one being the longest of the day at 49-yards. The boot increased WKU’s lead to 30-7.

After that, the 49ers got their second score of the game halfway through the fourth, thanks to a 30-yard pass from Reynolds to receiver Cameron Dollar. Charlotte was unsuccessful though on the two-point conversion keeping the score at 30-13.

Even toward the end of the game, that didn’t stop the Hilltoppers from keeping their foot on the gas pedal. WKU got into the endzone with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, receiving a five-yard run into the end zone from running back Chase Jones.

The next drive, Charlotte scored a garbage time touchdown on a 14-yard pass from backup quarterback Dom Shoffner to Elder. Elder’s score was his second touchdown catch of the afternoon.

The 49ers score was the final points of Sunday’s affair, giving the Hilltoppers a massive 37-19 lead. When asked about if the final game of the season was a complete effort Helton said it was based on the results. 

“Yeah, I would. I think if you said pick a game where everyone felt good from start to finish this definitely was one,” Helton said. “I thought all three phases were outstanding today.” 

WKU’s convincing win gives them a record of 5-6 for the year, and now wait and see if they’re worthy of a 2020 bowl game.

“We put together a great finish to our campaign, finishing the season real strong,” redshirt junior defensive back Dominique Bradshaw said. “I feel like we will get in a bowl game, it’s well deserved for us.”

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