Lowly second-half performances continue to haunt the Hilltoppers

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty drops back to pass against Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Florida on Saturday. Max Jackson/UNIVERSITY PRESS

Kyle Williams

The past two games on the Hilltoppers’ schedule have each proven to be a tale of two halves.

WKU (2-4, 0-3 Conference USA) surrendered a 13-point halftime lead at home against UAB on Oct. 4 en route to a 42-39 loss, and on Saturday, the Hilltoppers managed to squander a 17-point halftime lead, contributing to FAU’s 45-38 victory in Boca Raton, Florida.

The Hilltopper offense, which ranks No. 5 in the country at 547 yards per game, has held an average lead of 8.9 at the halfway mark of each game this season, which includes an average halftime lead of 15 against UAB and FAU. However, the defense has given up 24.5 points per game in the second half, including a 29.5 clip the past two outings.

The downfalls haven’t been limited to the defense, though. WKU’s offense, which averages 24 points per game in the first half of games this season, has only managed a total of 19 points and 232 total yards in the second half of the past two games.

However, there is reason for optimism. Of all teams in the NCAA with four losses, WKU’s margin of defeat is the slimmest at 21 total points. The next-to-least total is Navy’s 42-point margin.

“I’d be more upset if I sat up here and we were getting crushed every week,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “I think that we are right in the thick of it. We’re a competitive football team. We haven’t been good enough to win close football games. We’ve got to get better. We know that. We’re definitely working on it, but we have to learn on the job. We’ve got to perform better on game day, especially in the second half, if we want to get over the hump.”   

The Hilltoppers now share the league’s worst record with North Texas at 0-3, despite holding a second-place ranking for total offense within the league.

It’s not slated to get any easier for the Hilltoppers either, with six straight games to close out the season against teams with a combined 22-19 record. However, the glass is half-full for redshirt senior receiver Willie McNeal and company.

“You just have to stay positive, motivated and stay hungry,” McNeal said. “You can’t give up now. You have a whole half of a season left. With four losses we can go 8-4. So you just have to stay positive and stay hungry.”  

According to Brohm, the team has made adjustments and is excited to turn around its recent misfortune, this Saturday, against Old Dominion in Smith Stadium at 3 p.m.

The Monarchs currently sit at 3-4 on the season and 1-3 in conference play. Brohm said he expects to see his players respond, and if they don’t, he won’t hesitate to make changes.

“We have to continue to try other guys if we are not getting the effort we want on a consistent basis,” Brohm said. “The hungriest players, that want to contribute, are the ones that are going to play. I think our guys will practice hard. I think that they enjoy playing the game, and they realize it’s going to be a battle every week. I think they’ll respond and give it a good fight this weekend.”