Grand Ole Topry: WKU beats UK in Nashville

WKU sophomore wide receiver Stephon Brown, 89, dances in a circle of his teammates while celebrating Western’s win against Kentucky at LP Field on Saturday, August 31.

Elliott Pratt

The Hilltoppers didn’t need a trick play called Seminole to get a win over Kentucky this year. In fact, WKU never let its foot off the gas in its 35-26 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in front of 47,623 fans Saturday night in Nashville.

The win marks the second straight for the Hilltoppers (1-0) against Kentucky (0-1) to close out the four-game series.

Coach Bobby Petrino remains undefeated in season openers with nine wins and is 5-1 overall in his career against Kentucky.

“I love winning, and this is a great win for us,” Petrino said. “It is not about me, it’s about the players and the assistant coaches and how hard they worked and how much they invested into this team and this game. I’m just really proud of our players.”

One of the most anticipated facets of the WKU football team heading into this season was how the offense would run under coach Bobby Petrino and how quarterback Brandon Doughty would man the ship.

In five of his previous seven years of college coaching, Petrino’s offenses have ranked in the top 10 nationally for total average yards per game.

The hype didn’t disappoint Saturday night in WKU’s 35-26 win over Kentucky as the offense hung 487 yards on the Wildcats. Junior quarterback Brandon Doughty played a near-perfect game in his second career start by completing 27 of 34 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown.

Doughty said it was a blessing to start for an entire game. The junior’s last start in 2011 ended three plays into the game with an ACL tear.

“I was in the locker room before that game, and I said, ‘I just want to last that first series,’” Doughty said. “Once we got rolling, it was awesome. It was a great experience. I’m so blessed, I can’t even put into words how blessed I am.”

What made WKU’s offense execution seem flawless was the ability to balance the run and pass.

Kentucky first year coach Mark Stoops said the Hilltoppers did a good job of controlling his team in many areas on the field.

“They controlled us at the line of scrimmage, created some good run plays and good looks,” Stoops said. “We looked out of place. Simple things like leverage on the football, I thought we were very poor.”

While Doughty connected with eight different receivers on the game, the running game was handling business with three different running backs carrying the load.

A pair of Keshawn Simpson touchdowns and one from senior Antonio Andrews and sophomore Leon Allen helped establish the run game as a force Kentucky couldn’t stop.

Petrino said after the game the running attack is the biggest strength and compliments the passing system.

“That’s our strength right now,” Petrino said. “We have a good offensive front, good tight ends and a good group of running backs. I think Brandon (Doughty) really helped the running game because he was so accurate and completed a bunch of passes, and our players made plays after the catch. It was good execution overall on offense.”

The Hilltoppers came right out of the gate to start the game with an efficient drive with a healthy mix of run and pass plays. On WKU’s opening drive, Doughty was a perfect five-for-five for 45 yards.

Kentucky had no answer for stopping Andrews in the first quarter after 10 carries for 80 yards.  Two fumbles from Andrews in the first half opened the door for Allen to shine in the third quarter.  The sophomore only saw action in the second half but pounded out 92 yards on 10 carries and a 14-yard touchdown.

Andrews said it was great to see the added talent of running backs show out on the field.

“To see Keshawn come in and handle business, and Leon topping it off, that’s a good feeling, especially coming from the backfield,” Andrews said. “We have a lot of guys that can come in and step up when their number is called. It’s a good feeling.”

The win over the Wildcats gives WKU its second straight win over a Southeastern Conference opponent with the chance to add to it next week when the Hilltoppers travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee.

Coach Petrino said the win boosts WKU’s résumé as a team that is moving up to a higher level of play in college football.

“It is great,” Petrino said. “I took some time last week to watch last year’s game to see how we matched up physically, and it says a lot about (former coach) Willie Taggart and what he did here with the program. I’m just on board to try to help build it and bring it to the next level.”