WKU looking for third straight victory in homecoming matchup with Charlotte

Wyatt Sparkman, Football Reporter

The WKU football program (3-4, 2-1 C-USA) will host the the Charlotte 49ers (4-3, 2-1 C-USA) for homecoming at Houchens-Smith Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 3 p.m. CT. There are three keys to victory for the Hilltoppers. 

Getting an early lead 

WKU needs to take an early lead by any means necessary. Despite owning the 11th best scoring offense in the nation, the Hilltoppers haven’t scored an opening drive touchdown once in 2021.

Early leads have allowed WKU’s defense to pin its ears back and maintain pressure on opposing quarterbacks. WKU has compiled 11 sacks while leading this year compared to six when the Hilltoppers are behind. 

All of WKU’s wins this season have come when the program has the lead going into halftime. To say the Hilltoppers need a good start is an understatement. 

Run, Run, Run 

Charlotte currently allows the sixth-most rushing yards per game and the seventh-most yards per carry in the nation. WKU has run the ball the second-least amount in the nation this season but has been effective when it chooses to do so. WKU is averaging 4.2 yards per carry in 2021. 

Last week against FIU, WKU had its most balanced game since the first week of the season.

The FIU defense ran drop eight coverages, giving WKU a favorable matchup to pound the rock. WKU has seen these types of defenses for the last two weeks and may see them again this week due to WKU’s nation-leading pass offense.

“I can’t say enough about them,” offensive coordinator Zach Kittley said. “Once again we’ve kind of said it from the beginning of the year, we’re gonna have a running back by committee type deal this year. All those guys really stepped in. Noah [Whittington] didn’t make the trip last week, got a little banged up, ready to have him back this week. He looks good. But Jakari [Moses], Kye [Robichaux], Adam [Cofield], all those guys stepped in and really ran the ball hard, and gave us that boost that we really needed, especially after those first few drives.”

Don’t overlook Charlotte 

The 49ers rank in the middle of the pack in the FBS on both offense and defense. Charlotte is coming off a 38-9 loss to FAU at home and allowed FIU to put 33 points on the board the week prior.  

Charlotte redshirt senior quarterback Chris Reynolds has been very inconsistent throughout the season. He’s put up 300-plus yards and three or more touchdowns in three games this year, while also having multiple two-interception games and four games with under 200 yards through the air. 

Charlotte also has two rushers this season with over 300 yards on the ground in Calvin Camp and Shadrick Byrd. Between the two, they combined for 708 yards rushing on 4.7 yards per carry. 

“They can do it in the passing game, They can do it in the run game,” WKU head coach Tyson Helton said. “So, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense, and then their defense on their side matches with our offense, they’ll try to say, ‘hey, our offense is able to score points, let’s just limit Western [Kentucky] and what they can do and try to let our offense go outscore them.’”

“So we got to have a really good performance offensively this week because I really do think it’s going to be hard to slow that really good offense down, that Charlotte offense,” Helton continued. “That’ll be the challenge for our defense.” 

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.