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WKU Capitalize On FIU Mistakes On Senior Day

Gaej Walker’s strong day on the ground set the tone for the Tops’ fourth win.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

While it wasn’t an incredible performance by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, it was enough to bring their record to 4-6 following a victory against the FIU Panthers on Saturday.

WKU had a few important firsts on the season in this game. With a win against Southern Miss last week as well, this marked the first time this season that the Tops strung together two consecutive wins. The highlight for WKU in the win against the Panthers was running back Gaej Walker, who earned a season-high 127 rushing yards along with his second rushing touchdown of the season. It was also Walker’s first 100-yard game of the season.

While the Tops ultimately picked up the victory, FIU looked like the stronger team in the first half. Max Bortenschlager hit JJ Holloman for a 28-yard opening score, which WKU eventually followed up with a field goal in the second quarter.

On the kickoff following that field goal, EJ Wilson JR returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown and his first score of the season. Tyrell Pigrome ran a touchdown in for the Tops to make the score 13-10 in favor of the Panthers at the half.

The second half was, more or less, all Tyson Helton’s squad. The Tops’ defense scored twice in the third quarter to take the lead, which they didn’t relinquish. Walker and Pigrome scored rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Kaylan Wiggins scored a rushing touchdown to cap the night off for the Panthers, but the difference would still be 17 points when the final whistle blew.

While the margin was multiple scores, these two teams were fairly evenly matched in several categories. WKU only had 15 more offensive yards than FIU and FIU even held the ball for seven minutes longer. The two turnovers in third quarter ended up being the primary difference maker in this contest.

“Great team win today,” head coach Tyson Helton remarked in his postgame presser. “We always talked the whole season about having a team win and to finally be able to put it together, to do it on senior day, and last home game and win in decisive fashion, that says a lot about our football team and our players. I’m really really happy for those guys.”

Helton also mentioned how he and defensive coordinator Clayton White had been emphasizing turnovers for most of the season and how satisfying it was to see that come together on Saturday.

The Tops wrap up the season on the road against Charlotte on Saturday, November 28.

The loss for FIU brings the Panthers to 0-5 on the season with three games left on the schedule. The Panthers next take on Louisiana Tech on November 28.