Western Kentucky won their first game of the season at home against Southern Florida, 41-24. However, the final score does not tell the full story. Western Kentucky fans had to sweat this game out well into the fourth quarter.
The Hilltoppers realized they were in for a game after South Florida stunned the home crowd on the opening drive. The Bulls stampeded into Bowling Green with a 13 play, 75 yard opening drive score. After Western Kentucky hit back with a TD of their own, Byrum Brown decided to announce himself as the starting QB of the Bulls with an incredible play. While Golesh had refused to name a starter prior to the game, Brown introduced himself by tossing a beautiful ball down the right sideline to North Carolina transfer WR Khafre Brown for an 84-yard score. After Brown led another scoring drive, the Hilltoppers were down ten at home and head coach Tyson Helton looked less than pleased on the sidelines.
Whatever choice words Helton used to fire up his starting QB and defense, they worked. The defense forced back to back three and outs and the Hilltoppers scored on three straight possessions to regain the lead at 24-17. However, things still remained close when the Bulls tied the game up at 24 with their first drive of the second half.
Then, halftime adjustments from both defenses caused the game to temporarily stall out. The Hilltoppers ended the seven drive scoring drought with a field goal but the home crowd remained tense at L.T. Smith Stadium. What was supposed to be an easy win against a team that went 1-11 last season turned out to be anything but.
However, the Hilltoppers were picked to win this game and the C-USA because of their overwhelming talent on both sides of the ball. When the Hilltoppers needed a big play to put the game to bed, they turned to their best player JaQues “Donut” Evans. Panic gave way to pandemonium at L.T. Smith Stadium when the Preseason C-USA Defensive Player of the Year raced past the Bulls offense line, ripped the ball from the QB, and skipped into the end zone for a defensive score.
JaQues Evans aka DONUT is a menace— Liam (@Blutman27) September 2, 2023
Voted him as a Preseason 2nd Team All-American pic.twitter.com/qt1rWgFSdz
South Florida lost yet another close game, but Bulls fans and Golesh have a lot of positives to take from this game. Brown is a solid dual threat quarterback and the defense outperformed expectations for a majority of the game. Fortunately for Golesh, his team have a prime opportunity to get their first win in 364 days when they return to Tampa for their home opener against FCS Florida A&M next Saturday.
Meanwhile, Helton will hope this game serves as a wake up call to his team. The hype train can dangerously close to derailing in what many expected to be a cakewalk of a home opener. Fortunately, the Hilltoppers will have an opportunity to right the ship when they welcome FCS Houston Christian to Bowling Green. The Huskies went 2-9 last season.