Bowling Green, Ky. — Following up on a solid performance in a midweek mini-scrimmage, the Western Kentucky University offense recorded three scoring plays of 25 yards or more en route to piling up 518 total yards and six touchdowns in the first full scrimmage of the spring Saturday at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
Stephen Willis scored from 32 yards out to cap the first-team’s opening possession, while Andrew McCloud reached the end zone with a 25-yard run as the unit collected 100 yards on its first six snaps. Brandon Smith would later added a 48-yard touchdown run, as he would finishing the day accounting for three scores (two rush, one pass).
“Offensively we came out really fast and scored twice pretty easily,” stated head coach David Elson. “They outperformed the defense overall, but there were positives in all three phases of the game. The defense responded and played well in certain situations — Ryan Beard came out of the shoot and made a statement with a couple of interceptions and a big tackle on third down.”
Smith led all players with 53 yards on seven carries while recording 130 yards of total offense after completing 5-of-7 attempts for another 77 yards. K.J. Black totaled 155 yards after going 15-of-21 passing for 117 yards and rushing eight times for 38, and Tyler Bruce collected 81 yards of total offense and a rushing touchdown directing the second-team unit.
“K.J. played really well, he didn’t turn the ball over and made very good decisions,” Elson said. “Brandon and Tyler did well when they came in too, there were a lot of positives on offense.”
Beard’s interceptions ended the second-team’s first two possessions, and he returned the second one 22 yards. He also collected four tackles.
The defense recovered a pair of fumbles as well in forcing four turnovers on the day.
Black set up the opening score with a 27-yard completion to Wenquel Graves on the first play from scrimmage and a 10-yard pass for a first down to Quinterrance Cooper. The drive covered 75 yards in five snaps.
Smith’s first touchdown came through the air, as he led the second-team 45 yards in four plays on the next-to-last drive before halftime. He hit Seth Tamme down the middle for a gain of 35 yards, and after a running play lost three yards he carried for nine yards before finding Tamme in the back right corner of the end zone for a four-yard scoring completion.
After the break, with the first-team facing fourth-and-one on the defense’s 48-yard line, Smith found a seam in the left side of the offensive line and went untouched down the sideline for a touchdown. Black completed two passes to Jake Gaebler for 24 yards to begin the drive, which began on the offense’s 25-yard line.
Gaebler led the team with six catches for 52 yards.
Smith reached the end zone again from five yards out after taking the offense 50 yards in seven plays, setting up the score with an 18-yard completion to David Miller on third-and-five. Bruce closed out the scoring with a 16-play, 70-yard march, completing 3-of-4 passes for 20 yards and rushing for another 18 including a five-yard touchdown run.
Alonzo Higgins led the defense with 11 tackles, including 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage, while Ben Duvall and Erik Jones chipped in with eight stops each. Brad Cloud posted seven stops and Marcus Minor added six — to go along with a pair of passes broken up — in the secondary, and Tim Nelson paced the team’s linemen with six tackles.
“It was an opportunity for our young guys to step up and shine in live game situations,” Elson reflected on the two-hour event. “I think when we look at the film we’re going to see that we had some players who did that today. This was the first of three full scrimmages in the spring, there’s a lot we’re going to learn from today.
“Repetition is the mother of learning. We’re a young team, we need to continue to get these guys a lot of reps and play a lot of football over these next six practices in order to give them experiences they can learn from. That will help us as we go into preseason camp.”
WKU will workout at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium on Wednesday and Friday, then have another full scrimmage at 10 a.m. (CDT) Saturday.