WKU football preparing for tough UTSA defense on Senior Day

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty releases the ball during Saturday’s game against Army at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Elliott Pratt

It’s on to the third round of the playoffs for WKU. And as playoff tradition holds, each round has presented new and tougher challenges.

When the Hilltoppers (5-5, 2-4 Conference USA) host Texas-San Antonio (3-7, 2-4 C-USA) in the home finale, that theory stands true once again in a battle of strength versus strength.

WKU’s offense, ranked second in Conference USA in scoring and total offense, matches up against the league’s second best defense in scoring and third best defense in yards allowed. UTSA has only allowed 23.9 points and 354 yards per game with eight seniors highlighting the starting defense.

“We understand what it means to play in a playoff now and how important it is,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “I think, as I told them after this past one, each week the competition is going to get steeper. Definitely, this game is going to be tougher than the last one. We’re going to have to raise our level of play. We’re going to have to see how much we can improve as a player, as a unit and as a team to find a way to win.”

Brohm mentioned that the Roadrunner defense, ranked 35th nationally in yards allowed, is the toughest defense WKU has faced since Louisiana Tech, resulting in the worst conference loss in school history with a 59-10 decision.

In that game, WKU experienced a season-low in points and total yards (297) and committed five turnovers that dropped its record to 3-5.

Fortunately for WKU, it has played with an edge at home recently, winning three straight at Smith Stadium. The Hilltoppers have a chance to make that four straight for their best home winning percentage since going 5-0 in 2004.

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty’s record-breaking year has been best at home with 1,761 passing yards and 19 touchdowns without a turnover on a 74.7 completion percentage.

And as if performing well for Doughty and 17 other seniors wasn’t enough motivation to win their final home game for Senior Day, a win over UTSA would make WKU bowl eligible for the fourth-straight season.

“Right now, there’s no excuses to make, and we have to win this one,” junior defensive end Gavin Rocker said. “Obviously, it’s do or die at this point. It’s enough motivation for everybody especially with us winning back-to-back games for the first time. We’re trying to close out this season at home with a ‘W’.”

Much like WKU for the majority of the season, UTSA’s offense and defense have played as polar opposites. The Roadrunners started the year strong with a convincing 27-7 win over Houston before losing seven of its next nine contests. The Roadrunners average a conference-low 16 points and 288 yards per game.

What doesn’t bode well for UTSA is WKU coming off its best defensive performance against Army with a season-low 333 yards allowed. The Hilltoppers have also kept their opponents off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter in three-straight contests.

“That definitely helps our team,” Brohm said. “We’re going to need all three units this week against UTSA to win, and they definitely feed off each other.”