WKU routs 49ers in Charlotte, seven different Hilltoppers catch TDs

Western+Kentucky+University+Hilltoppers+junior+wide+receiver+Michael+Mathison+%284%29+runs+the+ball+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 junior wide receiver Michael Mathison (4) runs the ball 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, Sports reporter

WKU Football came up with a big bounce-back win 59-7 over the Charlotte 49ers Saturday. The blowout win for the Hilltoppers came just a week after a tough Homecoming loss to North Texas.

The conference win for the Hilltoppers will keep them in competition for a spot in the Conference USA championship and also makes WKU bowl eligible for the season with their sixth win.

WKU’s offense looked explosive after putting up only 13 points last week. Five different receivers caught touchdowns for WKU in the first half with seven different receivers finding pay dirt in total.

Graduate quarterback Austin Reed put up huge numbers for the Hilltoppers. Reed finished with 409 passing yards and six touchdowns. Reed entered halftime with 302 yards and five scores. 

Sophomore Malachi Corley led an impressive performance by the WKU receiving corps. Corley put up 162 yards on six receptions and a touchdown. Corley also had 41 rushing yards in the contest.

The Hilltoppers’ defense was also impressive against the 49ers. The defensive unit allowed only one touchdown and came up with two interceptions and a fumble. The defense also held the 49ers to a 1-4 record on fourth down attempts.

First Half

The Hilltoppers received the opening kickoff and the offense quickly got to work. 

Reed completed a 46-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Hall on just the second play of the game to make it 7-0. WKU redshirt freshman defensive back Upton Stout followed the touchdown with an interception on the other end that he returned to the Charlotte 7 yardline. 

Reed made quick work of the short field as he threw a seven-yard strike for a touchdown to redshirt senior Daewood Davis on the very next play. The touchdown made it 14-0 WKU in just over three minutes of play. 

The WKU defense followed with another strong outing on the following drive, forcing the 49ers to punt after a three-and-out. 

WKU’s next drive started within its own five-yard line. Despite the poor field position, the Hilltoppers were able to add to their lead quickly. Corley scored a 64-yard touchdown on a screen pass, making it 21-0, giving Reed his third passing touchdown of the first quarter.

Charlotte drove all the way into WKU territory on the following drive but ultimately coughed up the football again on a fumble by redshirt senior quarterback Chris Reynolds. The 49ers’ defense came up with their first stop on the next drive, forcing a three-and-out. 

The 49ers were able to move the ball again with their following drive, but were forced to punt it away after an offensive pass interference call set the drive back. 

The Hilltoppers started their next drive pinned inside their own ten, but quickly eliminated the poor field position with a 37-yard run, followed by a 22-yard pass. The drive ended with the fourth WKU player of the day catching a touchdown in redshirt sophomore tight end Joshua Simon. The touchdown gave the Hilltoppers a 28-0 lead.

The 49ers followed with a methodical 64-yard drive that ultimately resulted in no points. Facing a 28 point deficit, the 49ers decided to go for it on 4th and 11 in WKU territory. Charlotte failed to convert and turned it over on downs. 

WKU followed with a similar drive that burned some clock. The Hilltoppers drove all the way down to the Charlotte 2-yard line where they turned it over on downs with 1:39 remaining in the first half. 

The Hilltoppers got the ball back after forcing a three-and-out. Corley began the next drive with a 42-yard catch-and-run. Redshirt junior tight end Joey Beljan then capped off the drive with a 14-yard receiving touchdown. 

Charlotte’s next drive failed to produce anything as the 49ers killed the rest of the clock and took the game into halftime. 

Second Half

The 49ers got the ball first out of halftime. Charlotte began the second half with its best drive of the game that finally got the home team on the board. Reynolds capped off a four and a half minute drive with a 14-yard passing touchdown to make it 35-7.

Charlotte attempted an onside kick after the touchdown, but the Hilltoppers recovered it in Charlotte territory. 

The Hilltoppers quickly brought the lead back to 35 on the following drive as Reed found Michael Mathison for a 19-yard passing touchdown. Reed’s sixth touchdown of the day made it a 42-7 game.

The next Charlotte drive took out a lot of clock as the 49ers were able to move the ball. They were forced to punt after a few negative plays and flags. 

WKU moved the ball into Charlotte territory on the following drive as Reed continued his strong performance. The Hilltoppers ended up turning the ball over again on a fourth down attempt. 

The following drive resulted in another turnover on downs by the 49ers. Charlotte pushed the ball into WKU territory but was forced to go for it on 4th and 13, after a sack, and failed to convert. 

The Hilltoppers followed with a run-heavy drive that worked to burn some time off the clock. The drive resulted in a 40-yard field goal that made it 45-7. WKU then tacked on seven more with a pick-six by Anthony Brackenridge on the following play to make it 52-7. 

The 49ers turned the ball over on downs in WKU territory on the following drive. The Charlotte possession brought the clock all the way down to under three and a half minutes in the fourth quarter.

Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Darius Ocean led WKU on its last drive of the day and expanded the lead to 59-7 with 45 seconds remaining with a passing touchdown. 

Charlotte then burned the rest of the clock and accepted the 59-7 loss. 

Up next, the Hilltoppers will host Rice at Houchens-Smith stadium next Saturday at 2 p.m. CT. 

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