Hilltoppers Drop Home Finale To Middle Tennessee 21-10

By: Chris Glowacki, WKU Athletic Media Relations
By: Chris Glowacki, WKU Athletic Media Relations

Bowling Green, Ky. — Joe Craddock completed 19 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns as Middle Tennessee spoiled senior day for the Western Kentucky University football team on Saturday with a 21-10 victory at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.

The loss dropped the Hilltoppers to 2-9 on the season, while MTSU improved to 4-6.

The Blue Raiders drew first blood, scoring on their second possession of the contest. After a Hilltopper punt set up MTSU at its own 46, a third-down completion from Craddock to Malcolm Beyah for 33 yards set the Raiders at the WKU 22. After a pair of Desmond Gee runs move the ball inside the 10, Craddock and Beyah hooked up once again for a nine-yard scoring strike to make it a 7-0 game just five minutes into the contest.

The Hilltoppers were forced to punt on their first four possessions, and an interception again put the Blue Raiders in position to score as they took over at the WKU 37. After the drive stalled at the 16, a bad snap on a field-goal attempt led to an intercepted pass by Mark Santoro as WKU regained football.

The Toppers took advantage of the miscue, as David Wolke connected with Wenquel Graves on a 58-yard completion on first down to move the ball down to the five yard line. However, MTSU was able to keep the Hilltoppers out of the endzone, forcing them to settle for a 22-yard Tanner Siewert field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3 with 5:02 remaining before halftime.

Middle Tennessee responded with a scoring drive of their own, as they were able to go 74 yards in 11 plays. After a WKU stop on third down, the Raiders elected to keep their offense on the field on fourth down — a play that resulted in a 29-yard touchdown run by Phillip Tanner — giving MTSU a 14-3 lead going into the locker room at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Blue Raiders struck early in the fourth as Craddock hooked up with Sancho McDonald on a 33-yard scoring pass to open up a 21-10 lead.

Wolke led the Hilltoppers down the field on their next possession for the only WKU touchdown of the contest, moving 73 yards in just six plays. Wolke hooked up with Jake Gaebler twice on the drive — first for a 20-yard completion, then for a 27-yard touchdown reception as the Toppers made it a 21-10 game with still 11:45 remaining in the game.

However, the Toppers were unable to cut into the lead any further — fumbling on their next possession, and turning the ball over on downs the final two times on offense.

WKU gained 281 yards of total offense in the contest — 68 rushing and 129 passing. The MTSU defense forced WKU into 61 lost yards rushing in the contest. Individually, Wolke completed 18 of 31 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown in his final home game. Gaebler pulled in 11 of those 18 completions for 125 yards and a score, while Marell Booker led the ground attack with 53 yards.

Tanner finished with 92 rushing yards for the Blue Raiders, and McDonald pulled in four catches for 56 yards.

The Hilltoppers will have two weeks off before closing out the 2008 campaign at Florida International on Dec. 9.

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