Tops come up short in 34-27 setback to Troy
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Despite a season-best 406 passing yards from quarterback Austin Reed, along with three touchdowns, WKU’s fourth-quarter rally fell short in the form of a 34-27 setback to Troy Saturday night at Houchens-Smith Stadium. The loss dropped the Hilltoppers to 3-2 on the season while Troy improved to an identical 3-2 for the year.
Head coach Tyson Helton says, “They beat us fair and square. They played good football. Game went about how I thought it would go. I knew it’d be a hard-fought game. Our guys knew it’d be a hard-fought game as well. Battled hard, you know had some turnovers, had some penalties. When we needed to make some stops, we didn’t make them, and we needed to convert, we didn’t convert. So, you know, tough one. We’ll rebound, get back in conference play.”
Despite the loss, WKU outgained Troy 470-415 for the game, including a 406-280 advantage in passing yards. The Tops went 3-for-3 in the red zone and tallied 29 first downs to Troy’s 26. Penalties hurt the Hilltoppers, though, as they recorded nine for 85 yards. WKU also could only convert on 8-of-16 third-down attempts.
Reed connected with nine different receivers on the night, but Daewood Davis and Michael Mathison combined for 21 catches throughout the game. Mathison finished the night as WKU’s leading receiver with 160 yards and a touchdown, including 108 yards after catch. Davis was not far behind with 122 yards and a score of his own. The Tops struggled to run the ball most of the night, finishing with only 64 yards on the ground. Kye Robichaux was WKU’s leading rusher with 50 yards on 11 carries.
Reed reflects back to the FIU game and says, ”I mean I think that obviously when you’re out there when it’s 73 to zero it’s a different style of play. You’re loose, you’re having fun, you’re this and that. Today was definitely more of a dog fight. That comes with a different emotion to it. I mean it was one of those games where it was a straight battle, and it was not as much a ‘let’s go out there we’re balling, we’re having fun.’ We’re out there fighting. Anybody who has in been in a game like that obviously knows it’s a little bit different of a mindset and a little bit different approach, but I still enjoyed it. I still love this. I still love this game. I still loved being out there. Unfortunate with how it ended and disappointed to be able to do that for you guys, but next week we got next week.”
Defensively, Derrick Smith played well for the Hilltoppers, making seven solo tackles and intercepting a pass. One of his seven tackles was also a sack. Kahlef Hailassie also recorded seven tackles on the night, and JaQues Evans finished the game with six tackles and a sack. Altogether, the WKU defense got to Troy’s quarterbacks four times on the night.
The Tops started white hot as their opening drive took just over two minutes, going six plays for 75 yards and a touchdown. Reed connected with tight end Josh Simon on a 13-yard strike in the back of the end zone to give WKU its first game-opening touchdown drive of the season. From there, the offense sputtered the remainder of the first half until Reed and Mathison hooked up for a 34-yard touchdown on WKU’s last drive of the first half, sending the Tops to the locker room up 17-13.
Troy reciprocated to start the second half by scoring on their opening drive. WKU managed a field goal near the end of the third quarter, sending the game to the final quarter deadlocked at 20 points apiece. The Trojans would score on the opening play of the final quarter, and then again on their next drive to go up 14 points.
WKU found the end zone with just over four minutes to play to cut the lead to one score, then came up with a huge stop defensively to give the offense one more crack at tying the game. After starting the drive on their own 14-yard line, the Hilltoppers quickly moved the ball into scoring position at the Troy 32, but could not get any further as the Trojans forced a fumble and recovered to secure the win.
The Hilltoppers will now hit the road and resume conference play when they travel to UTSA for a rematch of the 2021 Conference USA Championship game. Kickoff between the Tops and Roadrunners will take place at 5 p.m. CT on Oct. 8.
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