Bowling Green, Ky. — Western Kentucky University introduced a new 18'x31' videoboard at its football home opener Saturday at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium — by the middle of the first quarter, school officials could have argued that they had already broken even on the $1.5 million investment.
The Hilltoppers recorded five touchdowns midway through the opening period, ending the quarter tying an NCAA I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) record with 49 points en route to an 87-0 victory over West Virginia Tech. The win evened the Toppers record at 1-1, while the Golden Bears dropped to 0-2.
WKU also set school records for points in a game and margin of victory, and fell three yards shy of allowing the fewest ever on the Hill — the defense limited WVU Tech to just 15 yards on 47 plays as the Golden Bears recorded minus-27 yards on the ground.
WKU will now prepare for a 2 p.m. (CDT) meeting with Eastern Kentucky in the “Battle of the Bluegrass” Saturday — it will be the Hilltoppers’ last game at Jimmy Feix Field until the final weekend of October.
Not only did the Toppers score two offensive touchdowns in the first three minutes and 19 seconds of the contest, but they got two scores from the defense and two from special teams in becoming the first I-A/FBS school to score 49 points in a quarter since the 1991 season. David Wolke opened the scoring by finding David Miller for a three-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the game, and after Bo Smith returned an interception on the Golden Bears’ third play from scrimmage 30 yards WKU needed just two plays before Tyrell Hayden doubled the advantage with a 23-yard scoring run.
By the time the offense returned to the field, the Hilltoppers were up 35-0. Dusty Bear sacked James Thorne in the end zone, forcing a fumble that Chris Walker recovered for a 21-0 advantage with 10-and-a-half minutes to go in the opening quarter. After a three-and-out, Jessie Quinn returned a punt 41 yards for a touchdown, before Andre Lewis forced a fumble on the initial play of the ensuing drive that Kyle Anderson ran back 19 yards for a 35-0 lead.
Andrew McCloud’s nine-yard run and a 22-yard fumble return for a score by Brandon Mason on the kickoff that followed gave the Hilltoppers a 49-0 advantage with three-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter.
By the time Chris James added on a 27-yard second quarter field goal, WKU held a 186-18 yard advantage in total offense while leading by 52 points at the break.
“It was great to start like that, but it was important that we finished it,” Topper head coach David Elson said. “It was positive for us to be able to score through the different elements of the game.
“It was good to get back home. What a great crowd — the place was almost full, and we could feel that on the field.””
Bear paced the Topper defense after matching career highs with seven tackles and two stops for loss. Lewis added five and Clay Stephens four as 11 individuals made at least one tackle behind the line of scrimmage. The unit helped WKU force seven turnovers in all, as Chris Bullard added a fourth fumble recovery and Brad Cloud and Stephens intercepted passes over the final 30 minutes.
WVU Tech was only able to convert 1-of-13 third downs against the Hilltoppers.
Hayden finished with 80 yards on 11 carries, ending his day with a three-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the second half for a 59-0 edge. Marell Booker added scoring runs of 12 and eight yards in the final 21-plus minutes — the last two touchdowns of the game — to finish with a team-best 103 yards on 12 attempts. K.J. Austin-Bruce and Wolke chipped in with 51 yards each, and Stephen Willis carried four times for 48 yards — including a 20-yard touchdown — as the Hilltoppers finished with 331 yards on the ground.
Six WKU receivers combined to make seven catches as Wolke and K.J. Black combined to go 7-of-12 passing for 100 yards. Mason had two receptions for 31 yards, and Quinterrance Cooper accounted for the team’s second score through the air with a 31-yard touchdown on a pass from Black with just over nine-and-a-half minutes to go in the third quarter.
Sam Cook had a team-high 59 all-purpose yards to pace the Golden Bears, collecting 48 on kick returns and 11 on a punt run back. Thaddeus Phillips’ 26-yard catch late in the first quarter on a pass from Thorne was the team’s biggest play of the evening.
Kendrell Fuller and Willie McCray accounted for six stops each on defense for WVU Tech, while Brandon McClendon collected five tackles including two behind the line. McCray also returned an interception — the only turnover forced by the group — 20 yards in the first period.