‘Owl’-sted | Hilltoppers beat Owls 35-19 in Homecoming victory

WKU’s wide receiver Taywan Taylor (2) tumbles and dives to catch a touchdown pass as Florida Atlantic University’s defensive back Sharrod Neasman (29) attempts to cover him during the Hilltoppers’ 35-19 win Saturday at Smith Stadium.

Billy Rutledge

WKU came away with a 35-19 win on Saturday in a game that remained highly contested through three quarters.

The win marked the ninth straight in Conference USA for the Hilltoppers (8-2, 6-0) and eighth straight at home.

Under Head Coach Jeff Brohm, the Hilltoppers are now 9-1 at home.

“We haven’t really played a full, complete four-quarter game yet, and having to grind it out in the second half, I thought that was good for us,” sixth-year quarterback Brandon Doughty said. “We’re trying to better ourselves and become a better second-half team; that’s where we struggled last season.”

Florida Atlantic kept it close by controlling the clock. The Owls won the time of possession battle 31:49 to 28:20 and led the Hilltoppers early, marking the first time WKU had trailed at home this season.

Doughty was 24 of 29 for 273 yards and five total touchdowns, scoring his first career receiving touchdown on a double-reverse pass by sophomore wide receiver Nacarius Fant.

Doughty threw touchdowns to three different receivers: two to junior receiver Taywan Taylor and one each to senior receiver Antwane Grant and redshirt senior tight end Tim Gorski.

Runningbacks redshirt junior Anthony Wales and redshirt freshman D’Andre Ferby didn’t find the end zone but still had successful outings, rushing for a combined 224 yards with an average of 7.1 yards per rush.

Taylor finished with 87 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of new WKU records. Taylor broke the record of the most touchdowns received in a single season when he surpassed 11. He is now only the second 1,000-yard receiver in a season in program history with 1973’s Porter Williams.

“He’s a playmaker. He has that second gear when the ball is in the air, and many guys don’t have that,” Brohm said of Taylor after the game. “He finds a way to make the hard catch … He’s explosive, strong. He’s a competitor, likes the game of football and is able to make big plays for us.”

FAU covered 85 yards on 15 plays on its first drive and found the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown pass from redshirt senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson to senior receiver Jenson Stoshak with 6:41 remaining in the first quarter.

The first quarter ended with the Owls leading 7-0 and marked only the third time the Hilltoppers were held scoreless in the first quarter. 

The Hilltoppers scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Doughty to Taylor just moments into the second quarter to tie the game 7-7.

WKU’s drive covered 16 plays and 75 yards in 7:22 — the most time-consuming touchdown drive on the season for the Hilltoppers.

FAU led 10-7 with 8:22 remaining in the half when the Hilltoppers responded quickly.

Doughty found Taylor once again, this time in a 44-yard touchdown bomb.The Hilltoppers took their first lead of the game at 14-10 with 7:21 remaining in the first half.

FAU was able to score on its next drive, a 21-yard attempt by junior Greg Joseph and his second of the game.

WKU had a chance to score before halftime, but a timely interception by FAU senior defensive back Cre’von LeBlanc at the FAU 6-yard line stalled the drive and sent the two teams in the locker room for halftime.

“In the first half, they were taking advantage of busted assignments. We were playing hard, but we weren’t playing how coach wanted us to,” senior linebacker Dejon Brown said. “In the second half, our coaches got us back to the fundamentals, told us to make our plays, make our tackles, and when the play comes to you, just make the tackle; that’s all you have to do.”

Out of halftime, FAU attempted a 47-yard field goal but could not convert.

WKU took advantage by scoring on the next drive, an 18-yard strike from Doughty to Gorski. Midway through the third quarter, the Hilltoppers had extended their lead to 21-13.

But FAU wasn’t done fighting. During the following drive, the Owls used 14 plays to march 74 yards and score on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line.

Johnson found freshman receiver Ralph Leonard for his second touchdown of the game, but FAU failed to convert the 2-point conversion, and the score was left at 21-19.

The next possession concluded with Fant’s double-reverse pass to Doughty for the score, extending the Hilltoppers’ lead to 28-19 right at the end of the third quarter.

The WKU defense held strong in the fourth, not allowing a point, while the offense was able to score one final time in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Doughty to Grant.

The fifth total touchdown for Doughty sealed the win for the Hilltoppers with a final score of 35-19.

After the game, Brohm stressed the importance of the upcoming bye week and what the team needed to do moving forward.

“I think [the bye week] is huge. I think I need a rest, our coaches need a rest, our players need to take advantage of it to get some of our guys that are nicked up healthy and get our minds mentally fresh to make this last run towards trying to win a championship,” Brohm said. “It’s what our goal has been from day one. We don’t talk about it a lot. We have to continue to work hard, do the small things, stay together and play unselfish.”