Hilltoppers play annual spring game, glimpse of 2021 team

Jeremiah Fails (21) celebrates the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers win on Nov. 14, 2020. The Hilltoppers defeated the visiting Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 10-7.

Wyatt Sparkman

WKU football team concluded its five-week spring practice schedule with their annual spring game on Saturday in Houchens-Smith Stadium. The offense scored four touchdowns on 15 possessions, while the defense picked up four interceptions and took two back for touchdowns. 

“Defense obviously got the best of the offense,” head coach Tyson Helton said. “It was good to see them get the turnovers and the big plays and the batted balls, so that was really good to see.” 

Helton finished his third spring at the helm on a cloudy, chilly day in Bowling Green with fans in attendance. 

“Really good spring game. First of all, I really want to thank the fans,” Helton said. “Really good turn out today. It was great to have people back in the stands and feel like just real football game atmosphere out there, so I really, really appreciate all the fans coming out today.”     

This year’s spring game for the Hilltoppers they played two 30-minute halves with a break in between. The game’s format was done by possessions. For most of the game a new quarterback and new sets of players would come in on both sides of the ball for every change of possession. 

Transfer graduate Bailey Zappe and redshirt sophomore Drew Zaubi got the nod to be the starting signal-callers. Zappe threw four interceptions during the program’s scrimmage. 

“It was really uncharacteristic of Bailey today,” Helton said. “He’s done a really good job all spring of taking care of the football. If you’re gonna have turnovers though, let’s go ahead and get them out of the way.” 


To begin the scrimmage graduate transfer Adam Cofield ran the ball for a rough gain of three yards. Zappe then converted a third and seven with a 15-yard pass.  


On the fifth play of the scrimmage, Zappe had his pass tipped up in the air and intercepted by junior Darius Shipp. 

Redshirt sophomore Drew Zaubi got the nod on the second possession of the game. On his first play, he completed a pass to redshirt junior C.J. Jones for a 28 yard gain. Then Redshirt junior Jakairi Moses scored the first touchdown of the game on a 30-yard rush downfield. 

After the fourth and fifth possession had nothing to show for, the Hilltopper offense picked up a nine-yard run on the first play of the sixth possession. Two plays later, Zappe converted a third and one on a bubble screen to redshirt freshman Dalvin Smith that picked up two yards. 

A few plays later on a third and three, Zappe threw the ball to Smith before it was tipped in the air and intercepted for a pick-six by redshirt sophomore Beanie Bishop. 

“I broke on the ball and Kincade and Will were fighting for the ball I guess and they tipped it up, and I saw they tip it up like twice, so I went over there and was like I might as well go get it and I snatched it and ran it back,” Bishop said.  

On the next possession, freshman Darius Ocean got his first snaps of the game. A few plays in he threw a pass to redshirt freshman Terence Taylor, who made an amazing grab over two WKU defenders. The drive eventually would stall out. 

Zappe came back out on the next possession for the Hilltoppers’ offense. On a third and eight, Zappe kept the changes moving on a completion to redshirt junior Daewood Davis for 15-yards. The next play Zappe connected with Davis again for a 12 yard completion. 

Later on the drive, Zappe picked up a huge gain for 33-yards to Smith to convert a third and 11. The offense could not convert the huge gain into a score after failing to convert a fourth down.

The next few possessions for the offensive unit could not get anything going before the intermission. 

On the first play after the break, Zappe threw his third interception of the game to redshirt freshman T.J. Springer. 

The next possession Zappe would get rolling completing three passes for big chunks putting the offense at the 34-yard line. A holding call would set the team back before Zappe completed a 14 yard pass to make it second and six. 

Zappe would complete a 30-yard pass to a wide open Davis to score the second touchdown of the game for the offense as he dove into the endzone. 

Freshman Grady Robinson would take over at quarterback for the Hilltoppers for the next two possessions. After the possession stalled out, Robinson got the second drive going on a 28 yard completion to redshirt freshman Kyle McNamara. 

After a facemask gave the offense 15-yards, Robinson picked up 11-yards on a scramble. A few plays later Robinson would hit redshirt freshman Terence Taylor for the offense’s third touchdown of the game. 

The next possession stalled out after penalties hindered the drive. 

For the 13th possession of the game, Ocean came back in at quarterback. He kicked off the drive with a 35-yard completion to redshirt sophomore Terez Traynor. A few plays later, Ocean completed a 15-yard pass on 2nd and 10 to freshman Drake Alsup, who made a sliding catch to pull the ball off the turf. The drive would stall out after a couple of incompletions. 

The next possession Zappe would dink and dunk the ball down the field to get the ball around the 45-yard line. Zappe would then throw his fourth interception of the game freshman Barry Wagner JR. 

Zaubi came in for the final possession at quarterback. The offense moved the ball up the field with ease before Zaubi connected with McNamara for a 44-yard touchdown to score the offense’s fourth touchdown of the game to end the spring game.  

“Just to see we are getting better every day that’s the biggest thing,” Moses said. “We’re just getting better everyday and to go out there and get some movement and just get moving is just a good thing to see. We got a lot of work to put in, so we’ll be ready for fall.”  

Sports reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Wyatt on Twitter at @WyattSparkman3