WKU reaches bowl eligibility in rout of FAU

Wide receiver Nacarius Fant (1) jumps over Old Dominion University punter Bailey Cate (96) during WKU’s 59-24 win over ODU on Saturday, Oct. 22, in Houchens-Smith Stadium. Brendan O’Hern/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech


With an annual season goal on the line, WKU (6-3, 4-1 Conference USA) achieved bowl eligibility for the third straight season by defeating Florida Atlantic University by a final score of 52-3 on Saturday.

“I thought our guys had a great week of practice, and I think they do a great job each week of coming to practice and working on their weaknesses trying to get better, trying to find a way improve,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “That’s what you have to do this time of year. It was good to get a road victory and now we’re moving on to the next one.”

The Hilltoppers never failed to control the 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.

From that point on, it was all WKU as White led the Toppers to score 24 straight points before FAU scored its first and only three points of the game.

The three points given up to the Owls on Saturday was the fewest number of points a Topper defense has surrendered in a game since 2011, when WKU shutout FAU, 20-0.

“I’d say that we still have a lot of improvement to do,” redshirt junior linebacker T.J. McCollum said. “Even those points that they scored shouldn’t have been scored … But as a defensive whole, we are getting better every day.”

The defense was able to hold FAU to just 202 total yards while White and company cruised to 661 yards of offense.

White threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns, spreading the ball all around the field.

Senior receiver Nicholas Norris led the WKU receiving corps with 131 yards and a touchdown on seven catches while fellow senior Taywan Taylor caught two passes for 84 yards.

Norris moved into second all-time on the WKU receiving list with 2,333 receiving yards in his career. Taylor holds the record with 3,177 yards.

Redshirt freshman receiver Lucky Jackson had three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in junior receiver Nacarius Fant’s absence due to an injury.

With redshirt senior running back Anthony “Ace” Wales forced to sit out the first half of the game due to his involvement in a skirmish in the previous game against Old Dominion, redshirt freshman running back Marquez Trigg filled in admirably, toting the ball 15 times for 98 yards.

Wales finished with 86 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries in the second half.

With the defense beginning to get into a bit of a rhythm and the offense continuing its scorching pace, Brohm said his team is starting to hit the November peak it has been able to do each of the last two seasons since he took over as head coach.

“I think every year we’ve gotten better,” Brohm said. “I think that if you want to be a factor at the end, you’ve got to improve throughout the year and other teams are going to get better as you get going. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, and if you want to do that you have to find a way to win at the end of your schedule.”

After Saturday’s romp of the Owls, the Hilltoppers are fourth in the nation in total yards gained.

The defense has rebounded from giving up 98 points in a two-game span against Louisiana Tech University and Middle Tennessee State University, allowing just 27 points in the last two contests.

“Coach Brohm is just saying to play it one game at a time and that’s all we’ve been doing; keeping that one-game mentality,” redshirt senior long snapper Nolan Dowling said. “To get where we want to go we have to keep doing it that way.”

Up next for WKU is Florida International University (3-6, 3-2 C-USA) who comes to Bowling Green for a 4:30 p.m. matchup with the Toppers this Saturday.

Reporter Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.