Hilltoppers grab Friday night conference win over ODU

WKU quarterback Mike White (14) spots an open teammate for a pass at the WKU Homecoming football game on Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Sam Porter

Trailing 31-21 in the fourth quarter on the road against Old Dominion, it was gut check time for the WKU football team. The Hilltoppers had already lost 20-7 at Illinois and defeated a winless UTEP team 15-14 on the road. Head coach Mike Sanford and company were looking to put their road woes away under the Friday Night Lights, and they did. 

Then, redshirt senior quarterback Mike White engineered a 12-play, 69 yard drive that ended with a 9-yard strike to senior receiver Nacarius Fant in the front left corner of the end zone to cut the Monarch’s lead to 31-28 with 9:03 left in the game.

On the following drive, junior defensive back Drell Greene intercepted ODU quarterback Steven Williams Jr. and returned it to the Monarch’s 44-yard line. Four plays later, White found redshirt sophomore receiver Quin Jernigan for a 30- yard touchdown to give the Hilltoppers the lead. Jernigan finished with a career best six catches for 81 yards and the go-ahead score. 

The Monarchs drove down to the WKU 26-yard line where they were faced with a fourth and 1. ODU running back Ray Lawry, who torched WKU for 166 yards and three touchdowns, fumbled a handoff from Williams and redshirt senior linebacker Daeshawn Bertram recovered the fumble with 2:21 to play. Bertram finished the game with a team high 11 tackles. 

ODU got the football back at its own 41-yard line with 35 seconds to play. With 15 seconds left, Bertram made the biggest tackle of the night, tackling a Monarch receiver in bounds when ODU had no timeouts left. Williams rushed his team to the line in effort to spike the football, but an illegal formation penalty on the Monarchs stopped the clock with one second to play. By NCAA rule, a 10 second run down should’ve ended 

the game. For whatever season, the run down wasn’t enforced and the Monarchs got one last shot. Williams threw up a hail mary, and senior defensive back Leverick Johnson came down with it, clinching the 35-31 victory. 

White finished the game with 304 yards and 5 touchdowns with one interception. White has now thrown 10 touchdowns in the past two games after throwing just two in the first five games. The Hilltoppers entered halftime with a 21-14. Lawry busted off scoring runs of 46 and 14 yards helped completely shift the momentum in the Monarch’s favor and give them a 10-point lead, setting up the biggest come-from behind win of the season. 

The win improves WKU to 5-2 (3-1 C-USA) and drops ODU to 2-5 (0-3 C-USA). The Hilltoppers host Florida Atlantic who is 3-3(2-0 C-USA) next Saturday at 3:30 at Houchens-Smith Stadium.