Bowling Green, Ky. — Through three series, it appeared as if the Western Kentucky University defense had turned around its fortunes from the last few outings in the team’s mini-scrimmage Wednesday at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
However, the offense closed out the day with three touchdowns on its final four drives while finishing with 318 yards on 44 snaps, an average of 7.2 per play.
With the offense in a two-minute drill, the defense began the mini-scrimmage by forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession as L.J. Harbison stopped Andrew McCloud for a one-yard loss on third-and-five.
Tim Nelson sacked Brandon C. Smith for an eight-yard loss on second down of the next series, and the second-team offense was still facing fourth-and-18 from its own 22-yard line when an offsides penalty extended the series. Tyler Bruce then found Clark Jeter for a 51-yard gain, but after Darvis McBride stopped Jeter on the 22-yard line only four seconds remained — Bruce’s final pass attempt fell incomplete ending the drive.
McBride was one of three players to record three stops on the day.
The defense got another stop when the first-team returned to the field, allowing the offense to cross midfield on a 16-yard scramble by K.J. Black but ending the possession by forcing an incomplete pass as the clock expired with the unit on the 45-yard line.
Bruce finally helped the offense break through on the last two-minute drill, completing all four pass attempts for 32 yards and running twice for another 17. He moved the unit 65 yards in eight plays before hooking up with Dustin Boyer for a 14-yard touchdown completion on a slant route.
“We did a little bit of it [work on the two-minute drill] Saturday during a full scrimmage, but concentrated more on that today,” head coach David Elson said. “We’re at the point now where, when we get in a scrimmage situation, we just want to play it and let the guys adjust to the different down and distances with the clock. Part of maturing as a team is having your players understand different situations — for example, when we throw a screen pass in a two-minute drill our defensive guys need to know to keep the receiver inbounds.”
Playing normal downs, Black led the first-team offense 61 yards into the red zone before Kyle Anderson stopped Bobby Rainey for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-one from the 14-yard line.
The offense would then score on each of its last two drives. Smith followed a 15-yard gain by Tyrell Hayden with a 36-yard touchdown run two plays later to cap a five-play, 55-yard march. Black keyed the final possession with a 53-yard completion down the right sideline to Quinterrance Cooper on second-and-23, which after two gains of two yards led to a three-yard touchdown run by Marell Booker.
Black finished with 119 yards of total offense while completing 8-of-14 pass attempts, and Bruce added 100 total yards aided by a 5-of-7 passing performance. Jeter had 51 yards on two catches in addition to Copper’s 53 yards to lead the receiving corps, while Wenquel Graves added a high of four receptions for 30 yards. Seven players rushed for at least 10 yards, paced by Smith’s 28 on two carries.
The offense averaged 7.2 yards per attempt on the ground for the day.
Orlando Misaalefua led the defense with four tackles, including three solo, while Ryan Beard and Mark Santoro joined McBride with three stops each.
The Toppers return to practice in helmets only Friday at 3:30 p.m. (CDT), while WKU will have its second full scrimmage of the spring at 10 a.m. Saturday.