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WKU Football defeats USF 41-24 in season opener

Dominic Di Palermo
Wide receiver Moussa Barry falls into the end zone for a touchdown against University of South Florida at Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

Aided by lockdown defense in the fourth and a great second half performance from the offense, WKU claimed a 41-24 win in their season opener against USF.

Redshirt senior quarterback Austin Reed threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns in the win. 

Star receiver junior, Malachi Corley was carted off the sideline during a second quarter T.V. timeout and did not return to action. 


Redshirt junior receiver Dalvin Smith played well in Corley’s absence. Smith caught seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.

It was a tale of two halves as the Hilltoppers fell behind early against the Bulls. USF put WKU on their heels early, taking a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter. 

WKU’s highly anticipated offense finally found their stride late in the second quarter. The Hilltoppers scored 10 unanswered to end the first half and tied the game up at 17 heading into halftime.

The offense was really flowing early in the third quarter. 21 combined points were scored within the first seven minutes of the period as a 51-yard touchdown from Reed put the Hilltoppers up 31-24. However, both offenses stalled for the rest of the quarter. Three three-and-outs and a turnover on downs kept the score at 31-24 headed to the fourth. 

USF looked to tie the game up as they marched down all the way to the WKU four to start the fourth quarter. However, WKU linebacker redshirt sophomore Aaron Key had other ideas as he intercepted a pass from USF quarterback Byrum Brown to stop the drive short. WKU’s offense was unable to score in the quarter, but a field goal and an insane strip sack touchdown from junior linebacker Jacques Evans sealed the 41-24 victory for WKU.

WKU will look to make it two wins to start the season as they face the Houston Christian Huskies Saturday, September 9 at Houchens Industries-LT Smith Stadium. 




USF took it right to the Hilltoppers on their first drive of the game. The Bulls took it 75 yards on 13 plays, capped off by a five-yard touchdown run on fourth and one by quarterback Byrum Brown. 

WKU looked stagnant on their first drive, however a great pick from redshirt junior Desmyn Baker gave the ball right back to the Hilltoppers and set up a 53-yard WKU touchdown drive, 7-7. 

Following a punt by each squad, Brown found a receiver for an 84-yard touchdown to give the Bulls a 14-7 lead. 


Following a third first quarter three-and-out from WKU, USF widened their lead to ten with an early second quarter field goal, 17-7. 

WKU finally put themselves back on the scoreboard halfway through the second as a field goal cut the USF lead to seven, 17-10. 

WKU’s offense put their best drive of the first half together late in the second quarter. Austin Reed took a 16-yard rush to the house, capping off a nine play, 66-yard drive to tie the game at 17. 


WKU built on the momentum of their score late in the second as receiver Dalvin Smith took a Reed screen 42 yards to the house. 

USF responded with their second touchdown on fourth and one to tie the game up at 24. 

Reed found receiver K.D. Hutchinson for a 51-yard touchdown on the following drive to give the lead back to the Hilltoppers 31-24.


Kicker Lucas Carneiro put the Hilltoppers up ten with a late field goal in the fourth, 34-24. 

Linebacker Jacques Evans capped off the scoring for the Hilltoppers with a remarkable strip sack touchdown, putting WKU up 41-24.  

Football reporter Jake McMahon can be reached at [email protected].

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