WKU DB Wonderful Terry (following Saturday's game vs. UTEP) : "We turned on that swagger that we haven’t had all year."
The Hilltoppers defense came into this game giving up over 41 points per game, and there really hasn't been much improvement throughout the season. Coming off a 59-10 blowout loss to Louisiana Tech, I expected the Hilltopper defense to do what it's done all season: give up a ton of points to put the team in a bad position.
Although they gave up 27 points to a conservative UTEP offense, Western Kentucky did not allow a single point in the final quarter. The second half defensive surge was ignited by Wonderful Terry's third defensive touchdown of the season, this time a pick-6 to give Western Kentucky a 28-27 lead with just over twelve minutes remaining in the game. This WKU defense has lived (and died) off of big plays this season, and I thought they would need one in order to beat UTEP.
The defense's spectacular second half play allowed for Brandon Doughty and the Western Kentucky offense to get in rhythm as the Hilltoppers began their comeback push after being down two scores early in the third quarter. Doughty threw for two touchdowns in the second half, and had an impressive completion percentage of 68% in the game's entirety. Coming off a horrible performance in WKU's blowout loss to LA Tech a week earlier, in which he threw for just 134 yards and four interceptions, I was surprised at his improvement against the blitz on Saturday. He stood tall in the pocket and delivered the pass to the open man or ran for a few yards rather than throwing interceptions off his back foot like we saw against Louisiana Tech. He was also able to find his favorite targets Jared Dangerfield and Joel German, for a combined five receptions and 145 yards on Saturday.
Whether it's a game-clinching interception returned for a touchdown by a redshirt freshman or (in Saturday's case) an igniting interception for a touchdown by their best play-maker, Western Kentucky has proved to me that its defense can find ways to win games late.
Jeff Brohm has preached to his team that each game should be treated like a playoff game in order for Western Kentucky (4-5, 2-4 C-USA) to have any shot at the postseason. Their next obstacle in their pursuit of a bowl game: the Army Black Knights (3-6). They will travel to Western Kentucky next week to face the Hilltoppers at noon (ET).