WKU hosts FIU for senior day, Hilltoppers aim for back-to-back wins

Jeremiah Fails (21) celebrates a win on Nov. 14, 2020 over Southern Miss. The Hilltoppers defeated the visiting Golden Eagles 10-7.

Matthew Hargrove

In the middle of the summer nobody would have thought that WKU football (3-6), (2-3, C-USA) would be having a 2020 season, let alone get to play their annual senior night game in November.

The Hilltoppers play their final home game of the year tomorrow against Florida International University (0-4), (0-2, C-USA). Kickoff at Houchens-Smith Stadium is set for 1:00 p.m.

“This game is an important game. We want to finish strong,” head coach Tyson Helton said.

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Coming off a matchup where WKU faced arguably their easiest opponent of the season in the University of Southern Mississippi, the Hilltoppers may face an even weaker threat in FIU.

The Panthers, despite having five games this year be postponed or cancelled, still do not have a victory on the season. Their closest game came back in September, when FIU almost upset the now No. 21 ranked Liberty University.

With the worst record in Conference USA, the Panthers blame their lack of success sorely on their inability to stop the run.

Not only is FIU ranked No. 12 in C-USA in total defense, but the Panthers also rank last in rushing defense. FIU has been allowing 255.2-yards per game on the ground, which is 12-yards more then the next ranked team in the University of North Texas.

The offense isn’t much better for the Panthers, averaging just 22.8-points  and 289 total yards per game. The only team in C-USA that is averaging fewer yards per game than FIU is WKU.

“Just like a normal Florida team, they got a lot of speed out on the field. I think their offensive line is pretty good, I think they’re trying to get the right quarterback going,” defensive coordinator Clayton White said.

Freshman quarterback Stone Norton is the main signal caller for the Panthers, and it’s easy to see why FIU has struggled so mightily on offense just by the look of Norton’s numbers this season. Norton has tossed for 250-yards and three touchdowns in four games.

Norton has yet to throw for more than over 100-yards in a game, since he did it in his first ever collegiate performance. The freshman threw for 120-yards against Liberty, which is just 10-yards less than the amount of yards he has combined to throw for in his last three games.

Another quarterback who is still trying to throw for over a certain yardage is WKU’s graduate signal caller Tyrrell Pigrome. The graduate has yet to throw for over 200-yards in a single game this season, but was very close with his 183 passing yards last week against the Golden Eagles.

Pigrome though, on the night of his very last home game as a Hilltopper and perhaps as a college football player, may just be facing the perfect team in hopes of creating a special memory to last for a long time.

“The season has been going by fast. It’s been a great time with these guys, just building relationships,” Pigrome said. “Not saying I didn’t feel at home in Maryland, but just being in the south it’s a good feeling.”

Even though the the veteran hasn’t been able to air it out this season, Pigrome has done a marvelous job with not turning the ball over on the passing attempts. 

Pigrome is one of six quarterbacks across the nation that has attempted at least 50 passes and not allowed an interception this season. A couple of the other quarterbacks in that category consist of Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei. 

It will not only be Pigrome’s final home game, but defensive stars Devon Key and DeAngelo Malone will be making their final curtain calls tomorrow afternoon.

Both Key and Malone stitched their legacies into Hilltopper history last week. Key set the WKU record for most tackles in Hilltopper history with 327 and Malone set the WKU record for most sacks with 25.

“It goes a long way. Those guys are great individuals, great players, great teammates. I mean they have definitely given all they have had. It’s been awesome watching it,” White said. 

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