Coming into the second conference game of the season, Head Coach Jeff Brohm was looking for a complete effort from his football team, and got it on Saturday.
WKU traveled to Houston to defeat Conference USA opponent Rice 49-10 in the first ever meeting between the two programs. The win keeps WKU (4-1, 2-0) in first place in the C-USA East standings and moves them to 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2012.
“We are extremely happy,” Brohm said. “Our guys worked extremely hard throughout the week — put in a lot of effort into trying to get better and get prepared for a very good Rice football team. Our guys played well. Without question, we were ready to play.”
Offensively, after allowing the Owls to score a 28-yard field goal on their first drive of the game, WKU went on to score 28 unanswered points and to enter halftime with a 35-10 lead.
Quarterback Brandon Doughty finished the first half with 343 passing yards and four touchdowns — all to different players. He averaged 356 first-half passing yards over the last three games, and he finished Saturday’s contest 28 for 38 with 409 yards and four touchdowns.
Touchdown passes from Doughty included a 10-yard pass to senior Taywan Taylor, a 39-yard reception to senior Jared Dangerfield, a 45-yard flea flicker pass to senior Antwane Grant and finally a 30-yard connection to senior Tyler Higbee. Redshirt freshman D’Andre Ferby got in on the scoring as he recorded a 2-yard touchdown rush late in the second quarter and another early in the fourth.
“We challenged our guys to play harder and smarter than Rice because I thought that was what Rice did well,” Brohm said. “We were able to do that. It was a great victory for our team, very rewarding, and now we are on to the next one.”
The WKU defense also recorded a solid day in the Texas heat.
The Hilltoppers forced five turnovers, four of them in the first half. Senior cornerbacks Wonderful Terry and Prince Charles Iworah both found interceptions while senior linebacker Nick Newton and senior defensive tackle Jontavious Morris each recovered a fumble. Redshirt sophomore Tanner Reeves recorded a strip sack and recovered the fumble for the final turnover of the day.
The Hilltoppers, on the other hand, never turned the ball over.
This is the second week in a row that the normally struggling WKU defense came to play.
After allowing only 14 points last week against Miami (Ohio), the Hilltoppers held the Owls to zero points in the second half and only 322 total yards on offense.
In the second half, the Hilltoppers did an excellent job of controlling the clock and limiting mistakes. WKU leaned on its running game to help take time off the clock and seal the victory.
Ferby finished with 58 yards and two touchdowns while redshirt junior Anthony “Ace” Wales got his first action of the season after returning from a hamstring injury. He ended with 9 yards while redshirt junior Darmontre Warr scored a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter — the first touchdown of his WKU career.
Since 2009, the Hilltoppers are now 6-2 against Texas-based schools and have won six straight. Their next game will be against another C-USA opponent, Middle Tennessee, at home on Saturday at 11 a.m.