Tops’ balanced offense set to match-up with experienced UTSA defense

Redshirt junior wide receiver Jared Dangerfield (21) catches a six-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Brandon Doughty during the second half of WKU’s game against Army on Nov. 15. Dangerfield caught seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the Hilltoppers’ 52-24 victory over the Black Knights. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Kyle Williams

Junior running back Leon Allen’s 345-yard rushing performance did more than break records — it gave the Hilltoppers balance.

Throughout the season, Head Coach Jeff Brohm has expressed the importance of the ground game for WKU (5-5, 2-4 Conference USA) in order to open up potential to hurt teams through the air.

After averaging 104.3 rushing yards per game in eight games coming into the matchup with Army, Allen’s program and C-USA single-game record 345 yards upped that average to 131 per game. At the same time, it balanced out the Hilltopper offense.

“Running the ball is very big,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Cam Clemmons said. “That’s something we’ve always stressed. Especially coming off a poor performance against UTEP, it was much needed. …I’m proud of Leon. A lot of times, he’ll take simple runs and break them out for 80 yards like he did and make us look good.”

The offensive unit will need those options in Saturday’s Senior Day matchup with UTSA (3-7, 2-4 C-USA), as the Roadrunners enter the contest with the league’s second-ranked defense.

UTSA has only allowed 23.9 points and 354 yards per game in 10 games this season and has eight seniors anchoring its starting defense. The Roadrunners’ average yards allowed per game is good for 35th nationally.

Although the Hilltoppers have shown improvement in areas during their two-game win streak, Brohm said they’ll have to do that and more in preparation for UTSA.

“After watching the (Army) video, I do think we played harder,” Brohm said. “I do think there’s a lot of room for improvement still and our players understand that. So hopefully we can build upon that, have a great week of practice and find a way to win against a very, very tough football team.”

With a win, the Hilltoppers would notch their best home winning percentage since going 5-0 in 2004. WKU currently averages 50.2 points and 546.2 yards per game in its five home games this season.

A win would also solidify the team’s bowl eligibility for the fourth-straight season, but according to Brohm, the number one priority is sending the Hilltopper seniors out with a win in their last game in Smith Stadium.

“It’s really our job as a staff, and the rest of the team, to go out with a home win,” Brohm said. “This is a tough football team to go out with a home win against. They’re very, very experienced and good on defense.

“(It’s) going to be a challenge, but we need to find a way to win this for our seniors.”