Cotsly Errors | Mistakes cost WKU big opportunity against LSU

WKU’s linebacker, Dejon Brown, 17, right, and defensive linemen, Kalvin Robinson, 48, tackle LSU’s running back, Leonard Fournette, 7, during the Hilltopper’s 48-20 loss Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Billy Rutledge

Facing the No. 5 team in the nation and playing on one of the biggest stages in college football, the WKU football team had a chance to shock the world in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when it clashed with the Tigers of Louisiana State University.

The Hilltoppers’ opportunity was dashed when turnovers, a soaked playing field and a disastrous third quarter caused WKU to lose 48-20, drop to 1-4 against ranked opponents in the Football Bowl Subdivision era and snap its four-game win streak.

“I’m definitely proud of our football team. We came here ready to play; we battled and gave them a football game,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “We cherish the opportunity to play tough competition. That’s our goal each and every year, and that’s how you get better. I think our guys will learn a lot from this game, and hopefully it will make us better.”

Trailing only 14-7 at halftime, the Hilltoppers were upset-minded early in the third quarter.

As the team trailed by seven, a series of events — two WKU turnovers, an ejection of senior linebacker Dejon Brown and two LSU touchdowns — changed the game’s complexion.

LSU scored 17 points in a 4:36 span to take momentum away from the Hilltoppers and help the Tigers coast to their 28-point victory.

WKU offensive leaders included sixth-year quarterback Brandon Doughty, who finished with 325 yards and three touchdowns to only one interception, and junior receiver Taywan Taylor, who caught ten passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

The first points of the game came through the big play: a 55-yard touchdown connection between LSU quarterback Brandon Harris and wide receiver Malachi Dupre that put the Tigers up 7-0. WKU senior cornerback Wonderful Terry was beaten in a one-on-one coverage after the Hilltoppers were set up to stop LSU’s rushing game.

After the Toppers gave up the touchdown on the Tigers’ first drive, the Tops forced four LSU punts, including two three-and-outs, in the first half.

“Our defense played good I thought. They came out and really competed,” Doughty said. “[LSU] is a quality team now; they are No. 5 in the nation for a reason. It’s hard to stop them consistently when we aren’t moving the ball.”

Doughty said in a game where the defense left the game open for the taking, the Hilltopper offense came up short.

“I take the loss on the offensive side of the ball because you can’t keep our defense out there for that long and think that we are going to be successful,” Doughty said.

WKU’s first points came early in the second quarter. The Hilltoppers capped off a nine-play, 62-yard drive with a 7-yard shovel touchdown pass from Doughty to junior running back Anthony “Ace” Wales.

Redshirt freshman running back D’Andre Ferby helped set up the score with a 35-yard rush that got the Hilltoppers down to the Tigers’ 3-yard line.

Besides that drive, the offense struggled to find success in the first half. Doughty threw for only 128 yards, and the team punted four times with one turnover on downs.

The Tigers retook the lead on a 2-yard touchdown rush by sophomore running back Darrel Williams.

The score capped off a six-play, 96-yard drive after WKU’s redshirt freshman punter Jake Collins downed them at the 4-yard line.

Trailing 14-7 at the half, WKU became one of three teams this season to hold the Tigers to 14 points or less in the first half.

The teams traded punches to start the third quarter, and both scored on their respective first drives.

LSU kicked a 34-yard field goal after a red zone defensive stand by the Hilltoppers while WKU responded with a 39-yard touchdown connection between Doughty and senior receiver Antwane Grant.

The score stood at 17-13 after a missed extra point from senior kicker Garrett Schwettman midway through the third quarter.

LSU responded with another field goal — this time a 43-yard attempt — to make the score 20-13, but it was the next series of events that shifted the momentum to the Tigers.

On the following kickoff return, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kylen Towner fumbled the ball and gave LSU great field position at the Hilltoppers’ 27-yard line.

A few plays later, Brown was ejected from the game after a hit on LSU quarterback Harris that was called as targeting.

The following play, Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette punched in a 1-yard touchdown rush to extend the Tiger lead to 27-13 with less than six minutes left in the third quarter.

The offense came out looking to bounce back, but Doughty was intercepted. On the following drive, LSU scored on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Harris to wide receiver Tyron Johnson.

WKU was outscored 20-6 in the third quarter as LSU capitalized on the Hilltoppers’ mistakes, scoring 14 points off two turnovers.

The final quarter seemed to be clock management for the Tigers.

Doughty was able to find Taylor for a 9-yard touchdown pass, but that was the only scoring by the Hilltoppers in the quarter. Two more scores by the Tigers — a 17-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Travin Dural and a 47-yard touchdown run by Derrius Guice — tallied the final score at 48-20.

Fournette finished with 154 yards and a touchdown while Harris ended up with 286 yards and three passing scores.

WKU was unable to knock off the No. 5 team in the country in a very rainy game, but the message out of the locker room was positive.

The Hilltoppers now stand at 6-2 overall, and with conference play resuming next week at Old Dominion, WKU will look to get back on track.

“I thought our guys enjoyed the moment,” Brohm said. “Yes, they are disappointed. Everybody is disappointed when you lose, but I think when you look back on it, they’ll know they did compete and made a game out of it.”

Doughty and the rest of the team are ready to move on to their next opponent.

“We’re pissed off tonight, but our goals are still there,” Doughty said. “It should hurt tonight, but tomorrow, it should be Old Dominion. We just have to move on.”

Ed note: A previous version of this story misspelled LSU WR Travin Dural’s name. This error has been corrected. The Herald regrets the error.