Hilltoppers topple Golden Eagles
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 00:09
A railroad track runs behind Houchens Industries in Bowling Green, Ky.: L.T. Smith Stadium. This single track separates the football stadium from the track and field facilities. Every once in a while a train will rumble through, giving a unique feel to the campus and football games.
Roughly 10 minutes before kickoff last Saturday, a train chugged down the tracks with foreshadowing that would have made William Faulkner giddy. It might as well have been wearing a Western Kentucky jersey; Southern Miss might have had a better chance of tackling the train.
On Sept. 15, the Golden Eagles held East Carolina to negative four yards rushing at the half. It was a far cry from that effort, as Western Kentucky racked up 128 rushing yards and 298 total offensive yards in the first half on Saturday. Junior running back Antonio Andrews recorded 140 total yards and a receiving touchdown in the first 30 minutes all by himself.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” senior linebacker Jamie Collins said after the Southern Miss defense gave up 560 total yards of offense in the 42-17 Hilltopper victory. “They took advantage of it, and, in the end, we lose. It’s not a good look for our defense after all we did against East Carolina. We weren’t mentally ready.”
The big story going in was who would start at quarterback for the Eagles. Junior Chris Campbell answered the bell after Western Kentucky took the opening drive 71 yards for a touchdown. The first three drives for the Eagles ended in no points after two punts and a missed field goal.
Campbell was banged up during the Eagles’ fourth drive when he took a knee to the back of the head. Freshman Anthony Alford made his first appearance of the night and helped finish the drive with a field goal for Southern Miss’s first points of the game. Later in the game, Alford was forced out with a knee injury after a touchdown run.
Injuries to Campbell and Alford opened the door for red-shirt freshman Ricky Lloyd, and he did not disappoint. Coming in late in the third quarter, Lloyd led the Eagles on a four play, 42 yard drive and finished it off with his first career touchdown pass to freshman running back Tyre Bracken. Lloyd led the Eagles down the field on their next drive before Alford took it in from a yard out on the play the ultimately ended his night.
The spark Lloyd provided was meaningless in the scheme of the game. The Hilltoppers had already put the game out of reach by the end of the third quarter. Andrews finished the game with 136 yards on the ground for WKU and freshman Leon Allen added 132 yards. It was the 28th time Western Kentucky had two 100 yard rushers in school history, the first since 2008.
“I feel like I showed that I can compete on this level and I can produce for this team,” Lloyd said. “I got a total of six reps all last week [in practice].” As for next week, “I expect to lead this team and show these guys I can lead this team and keep producing.”
Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes out-dueled all three of Southern Miss’s quarterbacks with 172 yards and three touchdowns. He tied his head coach and former WKU quarterback Willie Taggart for first place in all-around touchdowns at Western Kentucky with 47 and passed Taggart for third place in passing touchdowns with 36. Jakes was sharp all night, completing two-thirds of his passes. Everyone was involved in the WKU offense. Nine different receivers caught passes and six different running backs saw carries. The Hilltoppers also used three quarterbacks thanks to a big lead.
After the game, senior left guard Joe Duhon shared his thoughts on the team.
“We have to come together more as a team right now,” Duhon said. “We have to start practicing a little harder and come together. It’s taking more time than we thought it would, but hopefully we’ll get our confidence back.”
Head football coach Ellis Johnson called it a tough way to grow up, and it does not get any easier. The No. 19 ranked Louisville Cardinals will visit The Rock this Saturday. Southern Miss will have a week to fix their defensive mistakes before quarterback Teddy Bridgewater leads another potent offensive attack to town. The train left the station in Bowling Green; it will be up to the Golden Eagles to stop another one in Hattiesburg.