Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University football program entered the 2007 season with a goal of reaching seven victories in its first transitioning to the NCAA Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) level. The Hilltoppers will aim for more when they end the year Thanksgiving weekend at North Texas thanks to their final home performance.
Curtis Hamilton scored on a pair of long plays, finishing with a career-best 219 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns to help lead WKU to a 52-12 Senior Day win over Morehead State at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. He and the other 16 Toppers in their final season of eligibility will conclude their career when WKU faces the Mean Green Saturday at 3 p.m. (CST) in Denton.
The win secured the Hilltoppers’ 12th consecutive winning season, as they enter the finale 7-4. The Eagles concluded the year 7-4 after falling for the second straight game.
One week after setting the school’s career reception record, Hamilton set a new WKU standard for receiving yards after catching seven passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. That included an 84-yard reception for a score in the first period that gave the Toppers the lead for good, and a 15-yard catch for a score in the third period as he doubled his season touchdown total entering the contest. Hamilton also ran back a punt 67 yards for a touchdown before halftime, finishing with two punt returns for another 85 yards.
Fellow senior Chris James also added another school record to his résumé, using a field goal and seven extra-point tries to surpass Willie Taggart’s mark of 286 career points.
“Curtis kind of separated us from Morehead State with that long pass play and the punt return for a score,” said WKU head coach David Elson. “They came out with that on-side kick and caught us off guard, but our guys were levelheaded and took charge of the game right away.”
Hamilton’s effort helped the Toppers gain 192 yards through the air, as K.J. Black and David Wolke combined to complete 11-of-16 passes. Tyrell Hayden added 151 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries to surpass the 1,000-yard mark on the season as WKU finished with 382 yards of total offense.
The Hilltoppers converted 5-of-8 third downs and were successful moving the chains twice on fourth down through the first 45 minutes, as Jeremy Moore wasn’t called on to punt until early in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, WKU allowed 246 total yards as the Eagles were able to gain only 39 rushing on 34 attempts. MSU was 5-of-17 on third-down conversions while completing 16-of-34 passes with three interceptions. Kyle Anderson, Dusty Bear and Brad Cloud each picked off a pass, and Alonzo Higgins was able to post a fumble recovery to help the Toppers win the turnover battle, 4-2. Andre Lewis led the unit with 10 total stops, which included 2.5 for loss. Bear added eight tackles and 1.5 sacks, and Marcus Minor was credited with seven stops.
MSU got on the board first, taking possession of the ball when Mason Webb recovered his own on-side kick at the 43-yard line. Brian Yost then led the Eagles 57 yards in four plays before finding Erick Fitzpatrick across the middle for a 15-yard score just over a minute into the contest. The biggest play of the drive came when, on the first snap of the game, Yost connected with Dontae Gibson for a 38-yard gain down the left sideline to put the ball on the WKU-19.
The lead was just six points, though, after a bobbled snap led to a failed extra-point attempt.
And, by the time the Eagles crossed midfield again in the final minute of the third period, the game was well out of reach.
Hamilton helped break the game open with a pair of big plays, with the first a one-handed grab on a short pass that he took 84 yards down the left sideline to give the Hilltoppers their first lead, 14-6, with just over three minutes to go in the opening period. And after James added to the lead early in the second quarter with a 38-yard field goal, WKU forced a punt that Hamilton ran back 67 yards for a score to extend the advantage to 18 points nine-and-a-half minutes before intermission.
The Topper defense, which gave up just 90 yards before the break including only eight on 19 carries, then forced a three-and-out. Wolke returned to the field to lead a 12-play, 77-yard possession that he ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jake Gaebler. Higgins added to the WKU lead prior to the half when he picked up a fumble forced by Dan Cline and returned it 41 yards for a score.
Wolke capped off another scoring drive in the third quarter with a four-yard touchdown run before Black connected with Hamilton again for a score, this time from 15 yards out with the Toppers facing third-and-11.
It’s the first time this year that the redshirt freshman has thrown for more than one touchdown in a game.
The Eagles put the game’s final points on the board with two-and-a-half minutes remaining when Yost hit Gibson for a 51-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed.
Yost threw for 207 yards and two scores, with Gibson pacing MSU with 105 receiving yards on four catches. Fitzpatrick collected five receptions for 61 yards, while Ricky Cornelius accounted for 34 of the Eagles’ 39 rushing yards on nine carries.
Josh Ballard and Jordan Shafer both finished with a double-digit tackle total, posting 13 and 10 stops respectively.