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WKU Fends Off Eastern Kentucky To Open Season

Mike Sanford starts 1-0 as the Tops’ head coach.

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-Memphis vs Western Kentucky Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Renewing the Battle of The Bluegrass, WKU earned a 31-17 win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday night in Bowling Green.

EKU tried to make up for being massive underdogs by opening the game with an onside kick, but Western recovered. In the first quarter, however, neither team was able to come up with any points.

At the start of the second quarter, WKU capped a 16 play, 89-yard drive with a two yard touchdown run by D’Andre Ferby. WKU added another touchdown on their next drive when Mike White hit Lucky Jackson for a 66-yard pass that went to the house. Jackson was White’s favorite receiver on the day catching five balls for 144 yards and the touchdown.

Two drives later, kicker Ryan Nuss (who earned the start when last year’s starter Skyler Simcox apparently left the program earlier in the week) added a 44-yard field goal. WKU took a 17-0 lead into the half.

Eastern Kentucky opened the second half with a six play, 73 yard drive that ended with a six yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Boyle to receiver Ryan Markush.

WKU answered on the next drive with Ferby’s second touchdown run of the day, this one from five yards out. EKU came back on their next possession with another Boyle-to-Markush connection from ten yards out for their last touchdown of the day.

In the fourth quarter, WKU extended their lead with a one yard touchdown run from running back Marquez Trigg on fourth and goal. It was just the third of the redshirt sophomore’s career.

EKU answered with a field goal on their next possession to make it 31-17 with 5:03 left in the game.

The Colonels tried their luck at an onside kick following the field goal, but were unable to recover. While WKU was forced to punt on that possession, the Tops' offense had run off enough time and the defense kept EKU out of the end zone on the final possession of the game.

Mike White turned in a solid afternoon under center, but it was relatively quiet by his passing standards. He went 20-of-31 for 264 yards and one touchdown. It was just the fourth game of White’s WKU career where he threw less than two touchdown passes.

On the rushing side, White, Ferby, and Trigg combined for just 100 rushing yards (White contributed -18 of those). Ferby finished with 57 yards on 19 carries and two scores.

There were certainly plenty of things to be happy about for Tops fans in this win. For one, Ferby looked great after missing all of last year with a collarbone injury. Nuss connected on a fairly long field goal after becoming the starter on such short notice. Joel Iyiegbuniwe had yet another great game with nine tackles with two for a loss.

On the other side, this game was much much closer than it probably should have been. WKU only gained 19 more yards than the Colonels on the day (364 to 345). The pass defense, which has been an issue in the past, showed it still has room for improvement today. The Colonels gained all but 25 of their offensive yards through the air. Two fumbles from White weren’t spectacular either.

All in all, while it was an important win, that signature offensive flair that’s become synonymous with Western Kentucky football was just missing here. Perhaps that feeling will fade as we get more and more familiar with a Mike Sanford offense on The Hill. WKU next heads north to Champaign to face the University of Illinois on September 9th.