FAU runs away from WKU in the fourth quarter

Sam Porter

Heading into the fourth quarter, it appeared WKU was on its way to taking over first place in the C-USA East. Redshirt senior tight end Deon Yelder had just run in for a 1-yard touchdown off a direct snap to give WKU a 28-20 lead, their largest lead of the game.

The Hilltoppers had outscored Florida Atlantic 21-3 over a span of over 20 minutes after falling behind 17-7 early in the ball game.However, FAU running back Devin Singletary had other plans in mind, torching the WKU defense in the fourth quarter as FAU outscored the Hilltoppers 22-0 in the final period to leave with a 42-28 victory. Singletary, who leads the C-USA in rushing, ran for a season high 244 yards and 4 touchdowns in the win.

“The message from coach after the game was just to keep our heads up,” Yelder said. “We got a long season ahead and we’ll continue to fight, battle, and stick              together.”

After both teams went 3-and-out on their opening possession, redshirt senior quarterback Mike White and graduate transfer wide receiver Cam Echols-Luper began to find their groove. White found the TCU transfer for a 26-yard streak down the right sideline. Soon after, White found him again for a 6-yard touchdown to give the Hilltoppers a 7-0 lead.

After the Owls answered with a field goal, White threw an interception that began a streak of turnovers in the first half for WKU. White’s intended pass was tipped in the air, and FAU defensive back Andrew Soroh came down with it.

On the ensuing drive, the WKU defense got another stop. Then, the special teams group made a crucial mistake. On the ensuing punt, the ball niffed a WKU player, making it a live ball that was recovered by an FAU player at the WKU 8-yard line. Three plays later, Singletary ran it in from 12 yards out to give the Owls a 10-7 lead.

After the Hilltoppers were stopped again, punter Jake Collins pinned the Owls at their own 8-yard line, setting up the Hilltoppers to get a takeaway of their own. FAU began to drive before quarterback Jason Driskel took a shot against WKU cornerback De’Andre Farris. Farris, who entered the game with 10 pass deflections, leaped in the air and made his first interception of his career.

On the first play of the Hilltoppers’ drive, sophomore running back Quinton Baker fumbled the football, giving the football back to the Owls at the WKU 18-yard line. Singletary found the end zone for the second time, this time from 1-yard out, to push the FAU lead to 17-7.

White and company would respond, as redshirt junior running back D’Andre Ferby would punch it in the end zone from 11 yards out for his third touchdown on the year and the first since WKU’s season opener.

The run capped off an 11-play, 81-yard drive that cut the FAU lead to 17-14. After the Owls kicked another field goal, White engineered another impressive drive right before the half, driving the Hilltoppers 85 yards in 10 plays. White capped off the drive by avoiding a sack and reversing field before finding redshirt senior tight end Deon Yelder in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with just 51 seconds to play in the first half. The Hilltoppers defense would hold, and WKU entered halftime with a 21-20 lead.

“I thought we did a good job in the first half overcoming turnovers against a very explosive offense to help give us a halftime lead,” Sanford said. “But at the end of the day, we have to take care of the football, and I think the story of the game is they ended up scoring 22 points off our turnovers.”

Yelder’s touchdown late in the third quarter pushed the Hilltopper lead to eight heading into the 4th quarter. The Hilltopper defense got another stop, giving the ball back to White and the offense with an 8-point lead.

Then, things began to fall apart. White threw his second interception of the day to FAU defensive back Herb Miller, setting up Singletary’s 60-yard touchdown. The Owls converted the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28. The Owls forced a WKU three-and-out, and quickly took the lead. Driskel faked a handoff, and the WKU defense fell for it, leaving FAU receiver Willie Wright wide open for a 49-yard catch and run to give the Owls a 35-28 lead.

White threw three more incompletions on the next drive, forcing WKU to punt it away again. Singletary broke off several crucial runs, breaking multiple tackles in the process, before punching it in from 5 yards out for the final dagger as the Owls held on for a 42-28 victory. The loss is the second in C-USA play this year; both games the Hilltoppers had fourth quarter leads of more than seven points.

“We’ve got to finish, everybody has a gap to fit,” defensive back Ta’Corian Darden said. “We’ve got to fit our gaps. We’ve got to tackle and finish and the find the heart in us to finish the game.”       

The loss drops WKU to 5-3 (3-2 C-USA) and puts them one and a half games behind Florida Atlantic (5-3, 4-0 C-USA). If the two teams were to finish with the same C-USA record, the Owls would win the tiebreaker. WKU travels to Vanderbilit next Saturday in its final non-conference game.

 “One of my jobs is to make sure that the team is ready for next week,” redshirt junior linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe said. “We’re going to play a good team. There’s no time to sulk and pout, we’ve got to be ready. Tomorrow, we’re going to watch some film, learn from it, and move on.”