Bowling Green, Ky. — With plenty of weapons to choose from on offense, the Western Kentucky University football team’s skill players need to make the most of their opportunities when the ball is in their hands. Several individuals were able to accomplish that in a mini-scrimmage to close out practice Wednesday at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
Andrew McCloud recorded 81 yards on just three carries, while Stephen Willis and Jake Gaebler reached the end zone on their only rush and reception, respectively, as the offense put 24 points on the board.
In all, the unit totaled 351 yards on 40 plays, an average of just under nine yards per snap.
McCloud accounted for more than half the yards gained on the ground, with Bobby Rainey adding 42 and a score on four attempts as well. Three quarterbacks combined to complete 22-of-25 pass attempts for 200 yards, with K.J. Black going 8-of-11 for 108 yards and a touchdown and Brandon C. Smith hitting 10-of-11 for 57 yards.
“We just put the ball down and played the downs as they went. Our offense really played well and got after the defense,” said head coach David Elson. “They moved the ball, beginning with a big run from Andrew right off the bat in a coming out situation. It was one of those days where they had things going, they did a really good job of changing the tempo.
“I think we’re seeing the results of year two with continuity in the no-huddle offense. We have some tailbacks with some ability and receivers who can do things with the ball. It was a very, very good day for the offense.”
Derrius Brooks paced the receiving corps with five catches for 60 yards, and Quinterrance Cooper added three receptions. Dustin Boyer, Tyrell Hayden, Jessie Quinn and Willis each posted two catches as well.
Black moved the first-team offense 55 yards in seven plays against the second-team defense to begin the mini-scrimmage, finding three different receivers with Gaebler closing out the march with an 11-yard touchdown catch.
McCloud began the next series, which began on the offense’s three-yard line, with a 57-yard burst down the left sideline, and Rainey added a 14-yard gain around left tackle on fourth down before Chris Bullard recovered a fumble to stall the march at the defense’s 22-yard line. On Black’s next series directing the offense, he hit Brooks for a 32-yard gain down the right sideline and connected with Crawford Kilpatrick for 18 yards to set up a 20-yard field goal from Tanner Siewert. McCloud added a couple of first-down runs with carries for 10 and 14 yards on the drive.
After Marcus Minor intercepted a pass, running it back 38 yards, on the offense’s next series, Tyler Bruce led the second-team unit on a 65-yard scoring drive. He found Brooks for a gain of 12 and Willis for a 28-yard catch on third-and-21, then Rainey rushed for 16 yards before scoring from 11 yards out — he began the play headed to the left side, but spun away from two defenders and raced around right end to cross the goal line.
Willis closed out the scoring with his rush, which was set up by a 21-yard completion from Black to Hayden on a screen pass on the previous play.
Minor led the first-team defense with six stops, while Ryan Beard and Mark Santoro were each credited with six tackles to pace the second unit. Bullard, Braxston Miller and Darvis McBride each collected four tackles, with the latter recording two behind the line of scrimmage including a safety when he stopped Hayden in the end zone for a three-yard loss.
The Hilltoppers return to Jimmy Feix Field for a 3:30 p.m. (CDT) practice Friday, then close out the week with the team’s first full scrimmage of the spring at 10 a.m. Saturday.