Hilltoppers begin two game homestand against Southern Mississippi

Western Kentucky University Quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome (1) throws the ball during the WKU home opener on September 19, 2020.

Matthew Hargrove

After two tough weeks on the road, WKU (2-6), (1-3, C-USA) finally returns home to face a team that has had a similar year to the Hilltoppers in the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Our team has a lot of pride. It hurt last week losing the way we did, but I’m very proud of how they’ve come back and practiced and their drive and determination. We all want to finish this thing out the right way,” head coach Tyson Helton said. 

Tomorrow’s matchup at Houchens-Smith Stadium will kickoff at 2:30 p.m., under what is predicted to be overcast skies in Bowling Green.

Coming off of a week where the WKU defense had arguably their best performance of the year, the Hilltoppers will face arguably one of the worst offensive attacks they will see all year in Southern Miss. And that statement is looking to be more and more truthful heading into Saturday afternoon.

Golden Eagles redshirt senior quarterback Jack Abraham has decided this week to sit out for the remainder of the season. It is unclear as to why Abraham has decided to end his season, but the veteran has had his struggles in the last month with COVID-19 complications and a concussion.

Abraham has thrown for 1,224 passing yards and seven touchdowns this season, as well as tossed four interceptions.

This is a massive loss for USM, with their offense generating 376.9-yards per game and 25.9 points per game on the year.

With redshirt sophomore backup quarterback Tate Whatley going through concussion protocol, it will be up to redshirt sophomore third string quarterback Trey Lowe to handle the signal caller duties.

This season, Lowe has thrown for 157 passing yards on 26 attempts in two games against Rice University and the University of North Alabama. Lowe has also thrown two interceptions in that span.

Freshman running back Frank Gore Jr. may be relied on heavily with Lowe coming in. Gore is coming off one of his best games of the season, rushing for 103-yards on 13 carries against North Alabama.

“We got to bring the energy,” senior defensive end Devon Key said. “Just looking to improve each week, that’s kind of our goal.”

Even with the offense looking very depleted on the Golden Eagles side, WKU still has a lot to figure out with their offense as well.

The Hilltoppers rank last in Conference USA in scoring, averaging just 15.2 points per game. WKU is also only putting up 272.8-yards per game, which is No. 12 in the conference.

In the sewer for a lot of offensive categories, there is one piece of the puzzle that the Hilltoppers have been relying on the past three weeks. 

That piece is named Gaej Walker, and the senior running back has been finding his groove the past three weeks. Walker has rushed for 241-yards in his past three games, in which he only had 111-yards before then.

“He’s such a good kid. Even through the struggles of this year, never complained, never pouted, went to work everyday, understood what was going on around him and kept working. And I think he’s gotten to reap the benefit of that here lately,” offensive coordinator Brain Ellis said 

Walker will also be looking for his first 100-yard rushing game of the year to try and help his squad avoid a three game losing streak.

“The guys have been doing great all week. I think we got a good gameplan, we just got to execute it,” Helton said.

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