White team overcomes 14-point deficit in annual Red vs. White Spring Game

The WKU football team held its Red vs White football game on April 13, 2019 at Houchens-Smith Stadium. The White team beat the Red team 28-21. 

Drake Kizer

WKU football concluded its five-week spring practice schedule Saturday, as the White team rallied from a 14-0 deficit to defeat the Red team 28-21 in the annual Red vs. White Spring Game in Houchens-Smith Stadium.

First-year head coach Tyson Helton wrapped up his first spring at the helm, which was his third overall spring game on the Hill, on an afternoon that featured intermittent rainfall.

The Hilltoppers split into two teams and scrimmaged in traditional teams for the first two quarters of the contest before switching to a running clock in the second half.

Helton said he was pleased and called the spring game a positive day for the program.

“I think the name of the game is scoring and trying to score as fast as you can,” Helton said. “When in doubt, throw it deep. A couple of times today we had some doubt, so we threw it deep and came down with it. Other times we didn’t – which we need to make some more of those plays – but you know, we’ll try to do that.”

Helton and offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis are in the process of selecting the signal caller who will command the Hilltoppers’ new-look offense during the regular season.

Redshirt sophomore Davis Shanley stood out, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to help the White team complete its comeback win over the Red team.

Shanley said WKU has other weapons outside just the deep ball, but since the offense wasn’t broken using the passing game, there was no need to try and fix it.

“It’s always fun throwing the ball downfield as a quarterback,” Shanley said. “And you know, if we can complete those at a high percentage, then we’re going to keep doing it.”

The Red team received the opening possession, with redshirt junior Steven Duncan getting the nod for his squad. After a pair of completions to redshirt junior Lucky Jackson led to early first downs, the Red drive stalled a bit.

Duncan recovered a bad snap and rushed for a first down to maintain possession. Two plays later, Duncan checked the ball down to redshirt sophomore Jakairi Moses, who scampered for the game’s opening touchdown and gave Red a 7-0 lead with 8:31 left.

Graduate transfer Ty Storey started for the White team, completing a deep pass to redshirt junior Xavier Lane on his first attempt. White continued driving, but the Red defense soon had an answer for the former Arkansas Razorback.

Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Juwuan Jones recorded a sack and redshirt sophomore Rex Henderson broke up a pass intended for redshirt junior tight end Kyle Fourtenbary. Redshirt freshman defensive back Beanie Bishop then picked off Storey’s pass in the endzone on fourth down, ending White’s possession with no score at 4:53.

Red’s second possession ended in a punt by Australian junior John Haggerty, while White’s second possession came to an abrupt end after Storey threw his second interception of the afternoon, this time to junior defensive back Antwon Kincade.

Redshirt sophomore KeShawn McClendon was the star of the Red team’s third drive, notching a pair of five-yard rushes for an early first down. Duncan was called for intentional grounding at one point, but redshirt freshman Spencer Gaddis kept the drive alive on fourth down with a first-down reception.

Red soon took a 14-0 lead, as McClendon dove into the end zone from close-range with 0:51 left to play in the first.

Shanley checked in for White shortly before the end of the first quarter. Following a 12-yard rush by sophomore Gino Appleberry, Shanley aired it out to four-star freshman receiver Manny Allen. Allen snagged a 30-yard catch and simultaneously scored White’s first points of the day with 10:10 left in the second, 14-7.

Redshirt freshman Kevaris Thomas checked in for Red, completing a five-yard pass to Jackson on third down to keep the drive alive early. Thomas missed a wide-open Jackson on the next play and redshirt senior Alex Rinella punted for Red soon after.

Shanley’s second drive was just as solid as his first, as he completed a 46-yard pass to Lane. White had the ball first-and-goal, but Red did not allow a score in four downs.

Thomas led another empty possession for Red, which gave White an opportunity to knot the game. Storey checked back in for the White squad and came out slinging, soon finding redshirt junior Jahcour Pearson for a 29-yard score to tie the game with 1:01 left before halftime, 14-14.

On the final possession of the first half, Duncan led the Red team and its hurry-up offense. Duncan orchestrated a solid drive, but junior defensive back LA Rogers-Anderson recorded an interception as the first half expired.

Shanley led White’s first drive of the second half, which ended after three plays. Duncan escaped a sack in the end zone on Red’s first second-half drive, completing a deep pass to junior tight end Steven Witchoskey.

Red kept driving until redshirt junior defensive back Gaej Walker picked up a Gaddis fumble close to the 10-yard-line and took it back 89 yards to the house, giving the White squad its first lead of the game with 4:50 to play in the third quarter, 21-14.

The Shanley-to-Lane connection reared its head once again early in the final frame, as the duo later connected for a passing play of 20-plus yards that gave White a 14-point advantage with 9:40 left in the fourth, 28-14.

Redshirt junior Sean McCormack checked in to lead the Red squad in the final period, finding redshirt senior receiver Quin Jernighan for a touchdown reception that helped the Red squad claw back to within one score with 5:44 left to play in the contest, 28-21.

Redshirt freshman Drake Peer guided the last couple of drives for the White squad, one of which ended in an interception for freshman defensive back Clayton Bush.

On the final drive of the game, Helton stopped the running second-half clock and allowed Peer to run a standard two-minute offense for the White squad. Despite that, the game ended with no more scoring for the White squad, resulting in a 28-21 final.

Today’s game also served as the 15th and final practice session on WKU’s spring slate. The Hilltoppers won’t take the field again until their season-opening contest on Aug. 29 against the Central Arkansas Bears, a Football Championship Subdivision squad.

Reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.