Hilltoppers complete another second half collapse, fall 42-39


Stop me if you’ve heard this story line before; WKU plays a pretty solid first half at home, only to come out flat, almost as if they’d rather be doing anything else in the second half and lose a conference game. Yeah, I thought so.

It was the same story tonight, as UAB erased a 27-14 Hilltoppers halftime lead, and would take the first ever C-USA game in L.T. Smith Stadium by a final score of 42-39.

More from Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Unlike FIU last week, the Tops were unable to capitalize on Blazers turnovers – of which there were three – and defensively allowed nearly 600 yards to UAB, and the distribution was just about as even as you could get, with 291 coming on the ground and 300 coming through the air.

The tone of the game was set early, as Jamarcus Nelson took the opening kickoff, found a hole in the hashmarks, and took to the sideline on his way to a 100 yard kickoff return. The Tops would score in twos every time tonight, as they opened with a 15 yard Brandon Doughty to Taywan Taylor pass to tie the game, and then later in the first quarter, Ace Wales scored one of his three touchdowns on the night. UAB broke the Tops’ run with a Cody Clements 24 yard pass to Kennar Backman to tie the game.

The next two scores would be the second and third runs from Wales on the evening, and it would close out the half with a WKU 27-14 lead. After the halftime break, UAB would proceed to score three straight times – a Jordan Howard one-yard rush, a Clements five yard rush and a Clements 75 yard pass to Josh Magee – go give UAB their first lead since the Nelson kick return.

It was only a one-score deficit at that point for the Tops, but it seemed like it could have been a three-score deficit, as WKU was playing flat and uninspired on both sides of the ball.

However, to close out the half, The Tops would strike two more times, once on a Doughty to Antwane Grant 24 yard connection, and then again on probably the oddest play of the night, a Ricardo Singh 85 yard interception return after three or four WKU defensemen chased Clements around for 10 seconds. Odd play, I tell you.

What really put WKU at a disadvantage, even after the two scores, was that they went for – and did so unsuccessfully – a two point conversion after each score. I understand the one after Grant’s score, it would have tied the game, but not after Sing’s score.

The final score of the game would be a Howard 15 yard rush, which was all too easy as the defense didn’t look ready from the get go of the play.

WKU had a drive late in the game, and a couple of officiating blunders – a no call on a pretty obvious pass interference or defensive holding and then a no call on an offsides against UAB when the Tops were facing a 4th down.

Statistically for the Tops, Doughty would once again fail to throw for 400 yards. He didn’t even make 350. In fact, he barely broke 300,going for 319 on 25-of-37 passing and failed to turn the ball over. Wales was the workhorse tonight, not Leon Allenand he ran for over 100 yards, going for 138 on 14 touches. Six different receivers caught for over 40 yards tonight, and Mitchell Henry and Grant both eclipsed 50 yards receiving. Henry, who is still banged up but playing through it, was probably the Tops’ biggest asset today, coming up with some key receptions on big third down plays.

I wish I could say the Blazers did something spectacular to throw the Tops off their game tonight, but there wasn’t. The WKU defense seemed to forget how to tackle, and allowed Howard to go 183 yards on 34 touches. It was, yet again, simply an uninspired second half of football, and something that WKU won’t be able to get away with in Conference USA.

How did you feel about tonight’s game? Let us know below with a comment or tell us on twitter at @WavetheRedTowel.