Offense, Defense Share Big Moments in Hilltoppers’ Spring Game

WKU Spring Football Game
Published: Apr. 23, 2022 at 10:16 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - WKU Football wrapped a month of offseason preparation Saturday with its annual Spring Game at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

The Hilltoppers ran 10 possessions across four quarters of play without live tackling, with the offense (Red) and defense (White) separated into two squads. It was one of several scrimmages the team has completed this spring, and head coach Tyson Helton evaluated the spring as a whole as a positive step in the right direction.

“It was a really good spring all together,” Helton said. “I thought both sides of the ball did a good job today. … I think we’ve just got to keep progressing. There’s a lot of things we need to get better at. We still have to develop our young guys. I like our 1′s. Our 2′s, we’ve got to keep bringing them along. They’ve got to help us this year.”

The defense kept the high-powered Hilltopper offense out of the end zone on the majority of drives Saturday, although the offense also didn’t attempt field goals when in range.

The Hilltopper D played a more basic scheme for Saturday’s Spring Game, according to Helton, but he said he’s excited about the aggressive style he anticipates that side of the ball will show this season under new defensive coordinator Tyson Summers.

“I really like his philosophy,” Helton said. “You didn’t see it today, but it’s an attacking defense. We may give up big plays on defense, but the main thing is make them have to kick field goals. Don’t let them get in the end zone. Turnovers are key as well. We didn’t get a turnover today, but the defense has done a great job with turnovers all spring.”

After a punt on the opening drive, WKU’s offense scored for the first time on a 2-yard touchdown run by Javy Bunton. That was set up by a long scramble from quarterback Austin Reed, followed by a 40-yard completion from Reed to tight end River Helms.

On the next possession, quarterback Jarret Doege converted a fourth-down try with a completion to receiver Daewood Davis, then found Davis for a 20-yard TD strike to cap the 13-play drive.

“I feel like my downside is when I get too focused on one thing, so I just try to go out there and play clear-minded,” Davis said. “Go out there and do my thing. Last year, it was the first year in the offense so I was just trying to be perfect. This year, I came out and just went with the flow. Came out here every day and just did what I do best, play football and make plays.”

All of WKU’s quarterbacks took turn under center Saturday, and Helton said he’s been encouraged by the balance in the position room that should carry the competition well into fall camp.

“I’ve been really impressed with the quarterback position all spring,” Helton said. “I think all those guys did a really good job. Jarret had a really good spring. Austin Reed’s been really fun to watch. Austin came in right before spring practice, so I told him, ‘This whole spring, you just want to learn the offense.’ We’ll let the guys come back in the summer and keep competing and go through fall camp, and by the end of the fall camp we’ll know who the quarterback is. But it’s a talented room.”

The Hilltoppers rotated through different personnel groups in the second half, but the defense rose to the occasion no matter the scenario, forcing multiple punts and what would have been field-goal situations in a live game setting.

“Stemming from last year, as long as we got grass on the field we can fight,” defensive tackle Brodric Martin said. “Every time we got grass, we can fight. Don’t let it be easy. That is our mindset. Every time we got grass, we fought.

“We adjusted well. We started making plays. We got the plays down pat. We had a good spring overall.”

Coming off a 2021 Conference USA East Division title and Boca Raton Bowl victory, the Hilltoppers open the 2022 campaign at home against Austin Peay on Aug. 27.

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