Hilltoppers reach bowl eligibility with win at FAU

Western Kentucky wide receiver Taywan Taylor celebrates with his teammates after scoring the first touchdown for the Hilltoppers during the Hilltoppers’ 44-43 win in two overtime against MTSU on Saturday Oct. 15, 2016 at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Lex Selig/HERALD

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU put up their third straight conference win this week with a convincing 52-3 win over Florida Atlantic University to achieve bowl eligibility for the third straight season.

The heavily-favored Hilltoppers left no doubt in this game, as redshirt junior quarterback  Mike White hit senior wide receiver Nicholas Norris on a 76-yard pass to put WKU up 7-0 in the first minute of the game.

WKU never looked back, scoring 24 straight points before FAU would score their only 3 points. WKU then proceeded to score another 28 unanswered to close out the game handily.

It was a productive day for WKU on both sides of the ball. The offense was dominant, and the defense gave up the fewest number of points since 2011, when they shutout FAU.

White threw for 307 yards and 3 touchdowns. This was his fourth straight 300-yard performance despite the fact that he sat out the majority of the fourth quarter.

After the game, head coach Jeff Brohm praised White for his progress.

“Mike White continues to improve each and every single week,” Brohm said in a post-game radio interview. 

Anthony Wales had to sit out the first half of the game due to his involvement in a scrap against Old Dominion University last week, but he made up for his absence when he returned in the second half.

Wales had 10 carries for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns in that second half. It was his worst total yardage performance in a few weeks, but his 8.6-yard average is one of his better averages on the year.

Norris was the top receiving target of the day as he had seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

While Taylor didn’t have nearly as many catches, he still had 84 yards on two receptions, one for a touchdown when White connected with him on a 65-yard pass. Taylor averaged 42 yards-per-catch.

Thanks to the dominance of WKU, some backups got work in, and they scored as well.

Backup graduate senior quarterback Tyler Ferguson connected with graduate senior Stevie Donatell for a touchdown, and third-string redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Eckels hit redshirt freshman Quin Jernighan for a touchdown in a goal-to-go situation.

WKU limited FAU quarterback Jason Driskel to just 52 passing yards while also forcing an interception.

The Hilltoppers stuffed them on the ground as well, as FAU’s leading rusher Devin Singletary had just 37 yards on 11 carries.

This was a performance that WKU’s defense isn’t used to. It’s the first time all season that they’ve kept the opposition from scoring a touchdown, and the first time that they’ve allowed so few points since 2011.

The defense was so dominant that they actually caused FAU’s punter to set a career-high in punts, as he punted 10 times for an FAU record 466 yards.

Brohm was happy with his team’s defense as well, and after the game he detailed what the unit has been working on recently.

“The last few weeks, we’ve worked extra hard on the perimeter pass,” Brohm said in a post-game radio interview.

Brohm was very pleased with his team as a whole and their efforts to become bowl eligible.

“I thought it was a great effort by our guys,” Brohm said. “We’ve just gotta treat it as a one-game season.”

Brohm said that they have to treat it that way because they need to win each week. The Tops still have work to do to assure their spot in the C-USA Championship, which would only help get them into a high-profile bowl game this year.

“I think our coaches prepared well, I’m proud of them, I think our players were ready to play,” Brohm said.

The Hilltoppers have Florida International University  at Smith Stadium next week in another conference match-up. Both teams will be looking to continue their success within the conference.