Five different individuals reached the end zone and six rushed for 39 or more yards Saturday to lead Western Kentucky University to a 56-7 football victory over Indiana State at Memorial Stadium.
The Hilltoppers (4-3) snapped a two-game losing streak with their 12th straight win over the Sycamores (0-8). WKU has now won the last six meetings between the two teams in Terre Haute.
The Toppers used a balanced rushing attack to control the contest, as eight players contributed to the season-high 380 yards WKU gained on the ground. David Wolke, making his first start in a month, paced the attack with 72 yards, with Marell Booker adding 69, Tyrell Hayden 68 and K.J. Black 65. Stephen Willis contributed with 48 yards and Andrew McCloud posted 39, both season-best totals. Black, Hayden and Wolke had 11 carries each to lead the attack.
WKU’s defense contributed with three turnovers in the opening 30 minutes, finishing with five in the game, while holding ISU scoreless into the fourth quarter. Chris Bullard, Brad Cloud and Bo Smith all intercepted passes, and Dan Cline and Andre Lewis recovered Sycamore fumbles.
Lewis and Blake Boyd each recorded six total stops to lead the defense, which surrendered 279 total yards. Clint Mitchell collected five tackles, with Robert Dark, Neil Harrell and Jon Marshall each supplying four.
“We showed some very good leadership today with this being the end of a long road stretch,” said Topper head coach David Elson. “I thought our seniors stepped up and got everyone ready to play. We took control early and did well to sustain that effort.”
In fact, five different players accounted for the first five scores in helping the Hilltoppers take a 42-0 lead into the break.
Curtis Hamilton’s 85-yard kick return to open the game set up the first score less than two minutes in, as Hayden reached the end zone from one yard out on fourth and goal. Willis doubled the score with a nine-yard touchdown run with just under six minutes to go in the opening period, while McCloud made the score 21-0 in the final seconds of the quarter after crossing the goal line from five yards out.
Black added an 11-yard touchdown run and Wolke scored from the one-yard line for a 35-0 lead with just under five minutes to go before the half. Wolke hit paydirt again on a 15-yard run three minutes later as WKU led 42-0 at the break.
The Hilltoppers would end up scoring on their first seven possessions when Black’s three-yard run capped a six-play drive three minutes into the third quarter. WKU — which started five drives in Sycamore territory on the day — needed to march just 41 yards before Willis scored on a six-yard run with less than five minutes to go in the period to extend the advantage to 56 points.
The Toppers finished with 510 yards of total offense, as Wolke recorded 154 and Black chipped in with 113. The former completed all but one of his pass attempts for 82 yards, while the latter was 6-of-8 passing for another 48 yards. Quinterrance Cooper had a game-high three receptions for 40 yards, with Jake Gaebler, Hamilton and Jamar Jones adding two receptions each.
Hamilton led the Hilltoppers with 144 all-purpose yards, adding 28 through the air, two punt returns for 24 yards and a seven-yard carry to go along with the opening kick return.
WKU’s 32 first downs were two shy of matching the school game record, while it won the time-of-possession battle for the fourth time in the last five outings after holding the ball for 32-and-a-half minutes.
The Sycamores threatened to end the shutout early in the third quarter, but after driving to the Topper 10-yard line Cline recovered Tony West’s fumble on second-and-goal. ISU got on the scoreboard on the first play of the fourth quarter, however, when Bryan McCulley took Charles Dowdell’s screen pass 36 yards to the left corner of the end zone.
Dowdell was 5-of-11 passing for 86 yards and he ran eight times for another 48, while Riley Murphy completed 4-of-9 pass attempts for 56 yards. McCulley led the Sycamores with 52 rushing yards on seven attempts, and Tony West chipped in with eight carries for 48 yards as ISU posted 137 yards on the ground — it also recorded 142 through the air, with Brian Jackson and Jerimy Robinson grabbing two receptions each to pace the squad.
With WKU on the field for 77 offensive plays, four Sycamore defenders were credited with a double-digit tackle total. Brandon Logan collected 16, Shonda Faulkner 14, Darrius Middlebrooks had 13 and Dony McClesky 11.
The Hilltoppers return home for the first time since Sept. 15 when they play host to North Carolina Central Saturday at 6 p.m. (CDT).