Football Notebook: Efficient offense, timely defense propels WKU to 66-51 win

Old Dominion University sophomore David Washington (10) is tackled by redshirt freshman linebacker Daeshawn Bertram (54) as redshirt senior defensive back Rico Brown (28) attempts to strip the ball. The Hilltoppers defeated CUSA opponent ODU 66 to 51. Jake Pope/HERALD

WKU football nabbed its first Conference USA win of its inaugural season in the league on Saturday in the form of a 66-51 victory over Old Dominion in Smith Stadium.

The 66 points scored is a program record for the Hilltoppers, and, for the most part, they have redshirt quarterback Brandon Doughty to thank for it.

Doughty tossed for 371 yards, which is less than his per game average of 416.7, but he completed 23 of his 26 passes in doing so and tallied a total of five touchdowns in the first half alone, leading to a 42-30 lead at the break.

With a 34-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Taywan Taylor in the second quarter, Doughty became WKU’s all-time leader in single-season touchdown passes with 23, breaking Kawaun Jakes’ record of 22 that was set in 2012.

“Tremendous performance,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “This game he definitely took care of the ball. He made excellent decisions. He got the ball out of his hand. He made good throws up the field and did a very good job. If the game wasn’t slowed down in the second half, he probably would have thrown some more.”

Allen turns in career night against the Monarchs

Doughty orchestrated an efficient game behind center against the Monarchs, but junior running back Leon Allen carried the load for the Hilltoppers on the ground.

Allen tallied a career-high 182 rushing yards on 32 carries for two touchdowns and added two receptions for 31 yards to total 213 all-purpose yards.

The rushing prowess of Allen opened up several options in the passing game, according to Doughty.

“The running game is the quarterback’s best friend,” Doughty said. “You’re able to do different things and keep the defense on their toes. When you’re throwing 60-70 times a game, it’s hard. Those guys are just looking for the pass. When you have the threat of the run and we’re able to pick up yards, it really helps me out and makes it easy.”

Gardner’s pick-six shifts momentum for defense

The Hilltoppers had seen this situation many times before: the opposing team orchestrating a comeback and threatening the end zone to take the lead.

It was happening when Old Dominion was three yards away from taking a lead down 56-51 with under ten minutes to play in the game.

Then, like the defense had done before, they showed up when the time was right.

ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s pass was tipped by redshirt sophomore defensive back Branden Lesten and fell into the hands of redshirt freshman defensive back Juwan Gardner, who took it 96 yards to the end zone to essentially, seal the win for WKU.

“I think the ball was batted, Juwan was in the right place at the right time and he made a very good run,” Brohm said. “We had guys hustling down the field to help block, which is great to see. You had guys not giving up on the play. It looked like he was going to get run down from behind but we found a way to score. I think it was a great effort by them, and I’m happy they found a way to get better in the fourth quarter.”

That pick-six set the tone for the remainder of the game for WKU, who only allowed ODU to generate 57 yards of offense in the final quarter while keeping the Monarchs out of the end zone.

Despite WKU’s strong fourth quarter, the defense still allowed 643 yards of offense while the Monarch’s went 8-of-13 on third-down and 2-of-2 on fourth down conversions.

“Obviously it’s not the way you draw it up,” Brohm said. “But we found a way to win and I’m happy about it.”