WKU fades late at Auburn in 41-17 defeat

WKU fades late at Auburn in 41-17 defeat
Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 3:43 PM CST
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AUBURN, Ala. (WBKO) - After Auburn jumped out to a 17-3 lead in the first half, WKU came storming back to tie the game and secure momentum before halftime. That momentum did not carry over to the second half, though, as Auburn gradually ran away to win 41-17 Saturday night in front of 80,000 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The loss dropped WKU to 7-5 overall on the season.

”Auburn played a really good game tonight,” said WKU Head Coach Tyson Helton. “Really proud of that coaching staff and that team. They have really rallied the past couple of weeks. Really happy for Coach Williams. He’s doing a really good job. I wish them the best of luck in their last game.”The Hilltoppers won the coin toss and elected to receive but could not generate points on their opening drive. Auburn gradually built a 17-3 lead, and appeared to be trending toward a big advantage at halftime. The WKU defense then stepped up and allowed no more points in the half and put the ball back in the offense’s hands to get the Tops back in the game.

Austin Reed led the offense down the field and made a great throw to get WKU in the end zone for the first time. A defender had a clear path for a sack, but Reed dodged the rush and found Joshua Simon open in the front corner of the end zone to cut Auburn’s lead to seven.

On the next possession with seconds remaining until halftime, The Tops faced a third down and five on the Auburn 27-yard line. Reed and Simon would connect again on a screen pass which Simon took all the way to the end zone to tie the game with just six second remaining until the halftime break. It was the 16th career touchdown grab for Simon, who is the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns at the tight end position.

The Hilltoppers struggled to sustain their success in the second half as they would not score for the remainder of the game. WKU’s offense had opportunities but could not capitalize, and the defense eventually broke down late with the Auburn rushing attack continually chipping away. The Tops drove down to the Auburn 24-yard line late in the fourth quarter to stay within striking distance, but the drive stalled, and the Tigers put it away with a few more scores.

Despite the loss, WKU outgained Auburn 396-374 in total yards on the night. The Hilltoppers owned the passing game, racking up 300 yards to Auburn’s 122. Of those 300 yards, the WKU receivers earned 171 yards after the catch.

Reed finished the night with 290 yards and two touchdowns. Malachi Corley was his go-to receiver for the game, catching 12 passes for 99 yards. Corley surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the season with his performance. Jaylen Hall also chipped in 84 yards on eight catches. Markese Stepp was WKU’s top rusher with 33 yards on seven carries.

Defensively, Derrick Smith finished the night as WKU’s top tackler with seven takedowns, including one for loss. JaQues Evans, Talique Allen, and Kaleb Oliver all pitched in five tackles apiece. Kahlef Hailassie had a good night keeping Auburn’s receivers in check as the defensive back recorded a pair of pass breakups.

WKU will now return to conference play for the regular-season finale against Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Nov. 26. Kickoff in Boca Raton is slated for 11 a.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.