Mean Green spoil homecoming with 40-13 blowout

Western+Kentucky+University+Hilltoppers+redshirt+sophomore+Joshua+Simon+%286%29+celebrates+a+touchdown+with+his+teammates+during+their+match+against+the+Troy+University+Trojans+Saturday+evening%2C+Oct.+1%2C+2022+on+Jimmy+Feix+Field+on+the+WKU+campus+in+Bowling+Green%2C+Ky.+Hilltoppers+fell+to+the+Trojans+34-27.+

Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers redshirt sophomore Joshua Simon (6) celebrates a touchdown with his teammates during their match against the Troy University Trojans Saturday evening, Oct. 1, 2022 on Jimmy Feix Field on the WKU campus in Bowling Green, Ky. Hilltoppers fell to the Trojans 34-27.

Camden Bush, Football reporter

WKU Football (5-4, 3-2 C-USA) dropped a crucial C-USA matchup Saturday 40-13 to the North Texas Mean Green (5-4, 4-1 C-USA) on Homecoming weekend.

The Mean Green got out to an early lead and the Hilltoppers were unable to overcome the early deficit.

“They played exceptional today,” head coach Tyson Helton said. “We couldn’t stop them. They made explosive plays and then they stopped us. Very, very disappointing loss for us, too. We’ll have to regroup and see what we’re made of.”

The loss for WKU came in front of a crowd of over 17,000. The Hilltoppers named a homecoming queen at halftime, Calleigh Powell, capping off a weekend full of Homecoming events. 

The Hilltoppers’ discipline played a big part in their defeat as the team accumulated nine flags on the day. WKU also muffed a punt and quarterback Austin Reed threw an interception.

Despite the loss, Reed had a strong performance. Reed threw for 320 yards and a touchdown to go along with the pick. Sophomore Malachi Corley also had a strong performance as he tallied eight receptions for 97 yards. 

“By far our worst performance offensively,” Helton said. “We’ll have to go back to the drawing board and find out if we can be a good offense because right now we’re not a good offense. And we can’t sugarcoat it, but yards don’t mean anything. 406 yards doesn’t mean anything. What stands out on that board is 13 points. We scored 13 points tonight. And so we’ve got to figure it out.” 

North Texas junior quarterback Austin Aune proved to be too much for the Hilltopper defense to handle. Aune threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns en route to the victory. 

First Half

The Hilltoppers received the opening kickoff of the game, but were forced to punt it away after a three-and-out that featured a near interception by Reed.

The Mean Green followed with a drive that got off to a quick start with a 25-yard reception on the first play. North Texas pushed it all the way down the field and scored on a 28-yard receiving touchdown by junior receiver Kaylon Horton to make it 7-0.

 WKU picked up its first first down of the day on the next drive, but failed to get anything else going and was forced to punt it away again. North Texas followed up the punt with an 85-yard touchdown drive that took less than a minute. North Texas sophomore receiver  Damon Ward Jr. capped off the drive with a 56-yard receiving touchdown to make it 14-0.

Reed responded with a much needed touchdown drive for the Hilltoppers in which he completed a 52-yard pass to senior receiver Jaylen Hall and threw a 6-yard touchdown to sophomore receiver Joshua Simon. The touchdown by Simon made it a 14-7 game.

The Mean Green were able to push it down the field again on their next drive, but the Hilltoppers were able to limit the damage to a field goal. The field goal came from 39 yards out and extended the NTU lead to 17-7.

The next Hilltopper drive got off to a quick start as Reed hit redshirt senior receiver  Daewood Davis for 44 yards on the first play. After getting into NTU territory the Hilltoppers failed to convert on 3rd and 14 and were forced to settle for a field goal. WKU converted a 43-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-10.

The Mean Green pushed the ball all the way to the WKU 38 yard line on the next drive, but were ultimately forced to punt. 

WKU drove the ball into North Texas territory with its next drive but was forced to punt after Reed took back-to-back sacks. North Texas failed to add to its lead as a sack on third down forced a punt. 

The Hilltoppers then drove all the way to the UNT 14, but were once again forced to settle for a field goal. The WKU field goal came from 32 yards out and cut the deficit to 17-13 with under two minutes remaining in the first half.

The Mean Green failed to do anything with their next drive and were forced to punt with 30 seconds remaining in the half. On the punt, the Hilltoppers muffed the kick and North Texas regained possession at the WKU ten yard line. 

The WKU defense was able to hold the Mean Green to a field goal going into the half. The 20-yard field goal gave North Texas a 20-13 lead going into halftime.

Second Half

North Texas got the ball first out of the gate in the second half. The Mean Green were quickly forced to punt after only picking up one first down on their first drive. 

WKU followed with a methodical drive down the field in which the team converted on a few big third downs and one 4th and 2. Ultimately the Hilltoppers were forced to settle for a field goal attempt after driving 83 yards in eight minutes. The field goal ended up being no good and the eight minute drive resulted in no points. 

WKU’s defense came up big in the next drive as the Mean Green only converted one first down before being forced to punt. The following WKU drive began with a holding call that the Hilltoppers were unable to overcome, and were once again forced to punt. 

The Mean Green followed the punt with another quick drive that resulted in a touchdown. UNT freshman receiver Ja’Mori Maclin highlighted the drive with a 52-yard reception and Aune capped off the drive with his second passing touchdown of the day to make it 26-13. North Texas missed the extra point, keeping its lead at 13.

The Hilltoppers quickly drove into UNT territory after the touchdown but Reed threw a costly interception, giving North Texas the ball back with a two possession lead. 

North Texas proceeded to add another touchdown with a three-minute scoring drive. Sophomore running-back Ayo Adeyi capped off the drive with a 39-yard rushing touchdown to give the Mean Green a 33-13 lead. 

The Hilltoppers drove to midfield with their following drive and were forced to go for it on fourth down. The attempt failed and the Hilltoppers turned it over on downs with seven minutes remaining.  

The Mean Green did their best to burn the clock with their next possession and they brought the clock down to 2:08, tacking on another touchdown to make it 40-13. 

The Hilltoppers then killed the clock and conceded to a 40-13 defeat.

“Nobody feels sorry for us and everybody’s licking their chops,”  Helton said. “We better cowboy up and get our stuff together on offense. Same thing defensively.”

Up next, the Hilltoppers will face the Charlotte 49ers in Charlotte next Saturday at 11 am CT.

Football reporter Camden Bush can be reached at [email protected]