CRAWFORD | Five takeaways from WKU's 41-38 bobblehead night win - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Five takeaways from WKU's 41-38 bobblehead night win over Louisiana Tech

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WKU coach Jeff Brohm -- and his bobblehead -- were all smiles after a 41-38 win over Louisiana Tech. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) WKU coach Jeff Brohm -- and his bobblehead -- were all smiles after a 41-38 win over Louisiana Tech. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WDRB) — The difference a year makes? Defense. That’s the difference a year makes.

Yes, the Western Kentucky University football offense got rolling early against Conference USA rival Louisiana Tech. But when the Hilltoppers had lost some momentum following a gruesome knee injury to star running back Leon Allen, the defense held, created turnovers, and kept the visiting Bulldogs at arm’s length in a 41-38 victory at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.

The defensive numbers aren't pretty. But sometimes it isn't about the numbers.

“Well, I’m proud of our defense. We’ve worked hard as a staff, as players to try and correct some issues we had last year," WKU coach Jeff Brohm said after the game. "Our players have continued to get bigger in the weight room, get stronger, study film and work in practice on different ways to stop different things. Our staff has put a lot of time into it. Like you said, the numbers aren’t great, but I thought they played well. [The defense] stopped them in key times. [The defense] held them early on in order to give us a lead, and against that team, it’s important to get a lead. They’re very exotic on third downs, their blitzes, and if they would’ve had the lead, it would’ve maybe been a different story. Very proud of their effort, and while we still have a ways to go, I think our players are better prepared. They’re bigger and stronger. They’ve got a little more confidence, and we just have to keep working to get better."

Some quick takeaways (for statistics, click the image to the right):

1. THE OFFENSE IS BACK. WKU took only six plays to go 75 yards for its first score after Louisiana Tech deferred and elected to give the Hilltoppers the ball first to open the game. (Note to future opponents: Not a great idea. WKU’s first-quarter lead in yards was 203-22.

Louisiana Tech closed the gap steadily. Quarterback Jeff Driskel was good. He completed 25 of 43 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown. But contrary to what you might’ve heard on the FoxSports1 game broadcast, he wasn’t better than his WKU counterpart. (More on that to come.)

The Hilltoppers finished the game with 590 yards of total offense, and six different WKU receivers had at least 44 yards receiving.

2. DOUGHTY WAS NEARLY FLAWLESS. After a four-interception game against Louisiana Tech last season, Doughty felt some need for redemption in this one, and you can’t get much better than he was.

He completed 28 of 38 passes for 441 yards and a touchdown, without an interception. His rating of 179.9 far outpaced his more heralded counterpart. Driskel’s was 130.4.

“This one meant a little bit more to me because I played pretty bad in the last game," Doughty said. "It really did. It held a little bit – I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hold a little be more significance to me. We kind of thought about it, but we had to put the game behind us from last year and just execute. I think we did that tonight.”

3. ALLEN’S LOSS IS A CONCERN. Running back Leon Allen went down in the third quarter, taking a blow to the back of his knee that appeared to buckle it. He was helped off the field by trainers, and WKU had no more information on his condition at the end of the game.

He had run for 81 yards on 12 carries — a 6.8-yard average — to that point, and with him out, Louisiana Tech was able to load up, rush more and make life a little more difficult for Doughty. With back-up Ace Wales injured, it was up to redshirt freshman D’Andre Ferby to come in and make some things happen on the ground. He did, finishing with 39 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown.

4. WKU’S WIN STREAK. The Hilltoppers avenged the last loss they suffered — to Louisiana Tech last season, and their overall 7-game winning streak now is the fifth longest in the nation. At some point, you have to wonder when the Hilltoppers will creep closer to being nationally ranked.

5. DEFENSE, AGAIN. Nick Holt had five tackles, one for loss, a pass broken up and a fumble recovery. Marcus Ward led the Hilltoppers with a pair of pass break-ups and 11 tackles, while T.J. McCollum had nine tackles. Prince Charls Iworah grabbed an interception.

The defense gave up 580 yards. And it gave up a touchdown in the final minute, letting a receiver get behind it for a score with 27 seconds left. But the ensuing Tech onside kick bounced out of bounds, and the game was over.

QUICK HITS

  • WKU starts the season 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
  • The Hilltoppers beat Louisiana Tech for the first time since 1939.
  • This is the first time since 2000 that WKU has won both its home and road openers.
  • With a TD on its opening drive, WKU now has scored on its opening drive 18 times, 15 of them touchdowns, in its past 27 games. Doughty is 67-78 (85.9 percent) for 800 yards and 9 TDs on game-opening drives. Thursday night, Doughty was 4-for-4 for 67 yards and a TD on the first drive.
  • With a TD pass in 16 straight games, Doughty ties TCU's Trevone Boykin for longest current FBS streak.
  • Kylen Towner's 98-yard kickoff return TD was the sixth longest in school history and the longest since 2001. He also returned Tech's first punt 32 yards. Both returns are career highs.

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