WKU poised to rebound at UAB, confident for fast start

WKU Hilltoppers tackle Marshall running back Sheldon Evans (5) as he attempts a touchdown on Oct. 10. WKU fell to Marshall 38 to 14.

Matthew Hargrove

With the morale as low as it has been this season for WKU (1-3), (1-1, C-USA), the Hilltoppers hit the road this weekend to face one of their biggest challenges of the season in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (3-1), (1-0, C-USA).

The Blazers are last year’s runner up to the Conference USA championship.

The Hilltoppers will be the first opponent for UAB in two weeks, as last week the Blazers scheduled contest against Rice was postponed due to COVID-19 complications.

WKU will look to hand UAB their first conference loss of the year, and prove that they are still a threat in C-USA. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. at Legion Field this Saturday. 

“We realize again that this is an important game, and it’s gonna take our best effort all week to be able to get out there and have good results on Saturday,” head coach Tyson Helton said.

Not only is it an important game for everyone in that Hilltopper locker room, but there may be a crucial quarterback decision made by Helton before kickoff.

“Ya’ll gonna have to wait and see Saturday,” Helton said when asked about who will start at quarterback against the Blazers. “I felt like all the quarterbacks did a nice job this week.”

All of the pressure is on graduate quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, who was taken out in the second half of last week’s game after fumbling three times and accumulating 61 passing yards. 

Another unacceptable start could mean an early exit for Pigrome, giving redshirt sophomore Kevaris Thomas another opportunity.

After coming in for Pigrome in the third quarter, Thomas threw for 148-yards while completing a touchdown pass and run.

For the second week in a row, Helton has another elite running back to face in senior Spencer Brown. Brown ranks No. 2 in C-USA in rushing with 450 rushing yards in four games played.

The Hilltopper defense will try and not duplicate their subpar start against Marshall, which saw the Thundering Herd put up 14 points in the first quarter.

“I was very disappointed last week,” defensive coordinator Clayton White said. “Obviously that’s what was our focal point for the next opponent.”

Even though White has expressed the slow start to his squad this past week, Helton is confident his defense will get back on track.

“I don’t worry about them starting fast and those kinds of things,” Helton said. “The game is what it is. I know they’ll come out and give us our best and be ready to play.”

If WKU is able to neutralize the sensational back in Brown, it is going to be up to redshirt freshman quarterback Bryson Lucero to lead the Blazers to victory.

Lucero’s last performance came two weeks ago against Rice University when the young gun tossed three touchdowns while tossing 195 passing yards. Additionally, the freshman threw three interceptions in the process.

The Hilltoppers meet UAB at a critical time in the season, where a loss for the squad could be seen as lost hope for Hilltopper nation.

WKU senior safety Devon Key sees this midseason opportunity though as a chance to rejuvenate their season.

“Once we got the win last year against UAB, we kind of hit a roll, so we’re hoping to look for that again this year.” 

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