Western Kentucky entered Saturday’s match up in Nashville wanting to prove they belonged on the same field as their Power 5 foe in Louisville. It was evident early on that Louisville was the more talented team, even playing without starting Quarterback Jawon Pass. Despite the Cardinals controlling the game early, the Hilltoppers did not go down easy. Quarterback Steven Duncan played the entirety of the game despite injuring his foot in the second half. He looked much improved, finishing the game with a career high 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. His accuracy was still low, as he finished 25/47 on the day, but he is not all to blame for that. The one costly mistake was a fumble by Duncan near the end of the first half that was returned for a touchdown.
The expectation was that Western Kentucky would continue to dominantly run the football after Gaej Walker posted two consecutive performances of 100 yards. Walker carried the ball 14 times for only 41 yards, with his longest run being 7 yards. Instead it was another freshman who gave the offense its first score when Joshua Simon caught his only pass and took it 77 yards to the house. Overall, the offense was able to put up points but unable to get in any rythm. They converted only 4-16 third downs.
The defense for Western Kentucky looked more like it did week one vs. UCA than it did in last weeks victory over FIU. Louisville quickly established a ground game behind quarterback Malik Cunningham and never looked back. Javian Hawkins led the way with 93 of Louisville’s 210 yard on the ground. They were also able to find success against WKU’s secondary for 205 yards on ten catches. Western was unable to cover Louisville star reciever Tutu Atwell as he caught four passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns.
While an overall rough day for the defense, it was highlighted by Devon Key and DeAngelo Malone, who each finished with 10 tackles. Key also recovered a fumble to start the second half. The Hilltoppers front seven looked solid in pass rush, tallying 3 sacks on 16 pass attempts, but Louisville controlled the game on the ground. “They overpowered us,” coach Helton said after the game, speaking of the Louisville offense.
Western Kentucky comes off this loss into a bye week. The Hilltoppers now have film against a power opponent, no matter the caliber in national rankings. Expect Western Kentucky to tighten up their defense and keep building a rhythm on offense. This game offered a non conference test for WKU, who even with a loss, gained valuable experience in an otherwise meaningless game. Western Kentucky still sits alone atop the C-USA standings.