In the battle of one-win teams on Saturday, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers made it known that they wanted to give their senior class one more victory in Bowling Green with the UTEP Miners paying them a visit.
All of WKU’s points came in the first half with the Tops scoring on six of eight offensive possessions before the intermission. Sophomore Gaej Walker also returned an interception for a touchdown. The WKU defense had five interceptions in the first half, each coming from a different player. That total of five is a new single game FBS-era program record for WKU. The other four went to Devon Key, TaCorian Darden, Drell Greene, and Roger Cray.
Going into this game, one of the biggest concerns was whether or not the WKU defense would be able to keep Quardraiz Wadley and the UTEP run game in check. The Tops succeeded and held the Miners to just 50 yards rushing.
On offense, Steven Duncan got the start for WKU at quarterback and played very well in the role. He finished 19 of 31 for 214 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also added 54 rushing yards on the day. Senior D’Andre Ferby added 69 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Also getting in on the senior day action was tight end Mik’Quan Deane who caught three passes for 71 yards.
The Miners picked up their two touchdowns in the second half. Brandon Jones led a 75-yard drive to open the second half that ended with eight points. Jones picked up his second touchdown pass in fourth quarter when David Lucero caught a pass and took it 88-yards for the score.
The 40 points for WKU were the most they had scored all season. After the way that this season has gone for WKU and for these seniors that are some of the last remnants of the Tops that were contending for and winning league titles regularly prior to 2017, Saturday’s performance was vindicating.
“It’s long overdue,” Ferby said in a postgame presser. “We put in a lot of work. Countless hours. This game speaks to the work that we put in. Some teams who have the record we have would sort of give up. But with the competitors we have... each game, no matter what the record is, we’re going to give it our all. It showed [tonight].”
“[I’m] very very happy for this senior class,” added head coach Mike Sanford, whose seat cools slightly with this win. “We challenged every one of us how much we were willing to give to get that result that we’ve been just desperately wanting. The mood in the locker room is long overdue.”
The win improves WKU’s record to 2-9 on the season and 1-6 in conference play. The Tops have one more game to close out the season with a trip to Ruston to face Louisiana Tech on November 24th.
UTEP are now 1-10 in 2018 and 1-6 in conference play. The Miners play Southern Miss on Saturday to close out the season.