QUICK HITTER STORY/Senior QB Austin Reed, stingy WKU defense deliver 31-10 thumping of MTSU


Western Kentucky’s football team got back into the win column in resounding fashion on Thursday night, zapping traditional rival Middle Tennessee State, 31-10, before a paid crowd of 14,712 at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Five days removed from a disappointing loss, Saturday’s 27-24 defeat on the road against Troy University, the Hilltoppers returned with a vengeance to earn their third victory against two losses. Western Kentucky built a 23-3 advantage over the course of the first half, and then brought the smack down on the outmanned Blue Raiders down the stretch.

It was WKU’s fifth consecutive victory over MTSU, the Hilltoppers’ “100 Miles Of Hate” rivalry dating back to their days in the Ohio Valley Conference.

As a matter of fact, this was kind of an “old school” kind of victory, any way you slice it.

WKU quarterback Austin Reed threw two touchdown passes in the first half, adding a 1-yard scoring run on a quarterback sneak, while the Tops’ defense limited a capable MTSU offense to just 124 yards total offense until the break. MTSU pulled to within 13 points with a methodical 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, but the Blue Raiders would get no closer.

MTSU dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-1 in Conference USA.

The Hilltoppers, 1-0 in Conference USA, will travel to face Louisiana Tech next Thursday night in Ruston, Louisiana. It will be the second of four consecutive WKU games on weeknights, with next week’s game against La Tech to be televised on ESPNU.

“This was a really good win tonight, against a good opponent, in a rivalry game,” WKU coach Tyson Helton said in his postgame press conference. “I’m very proud of our defense … Now we’ve got to go do it, on the road. Our defense was fantastic, getting the turnovers and stops when we needed it …

“Our guys were ready to play. They had a great look in in their eye (beforehand). Their jaw was set. You could see it in their eyes.”

Reed, the Hilltoppers’ talented senior quarterback from St. Augustin, Florida, completed 30 of 52 passes for 297 yards and the two aforementioned touchdowns. He was intercepted once.

WKU defensive coordinator Tyson Summers unleashed an aggressive defense that forced three MTSU turnovers, two interceptions of MTSU quarterback Nicholas Vattiato and a second-quarter fumble recovered by Hilltoppers linebacker Bryson Washington, a 238-pound senior from Louisville’s Pleasure Ridge Park High School.

“The ball came out of (Vattiato’s hand) and I was able to get it, with one hand,” Washington said after it was over. “The guys up front really took control tonight.”

WKU put it out of reach with 5:52 left in the game, with the Tops’ Elijah Young scoring on a 14-yard run before Reed passed the ball to Dalvin Smith in the end zone for a two-point conversion.

The Hilltoppers’ L.T. Sanders carried the ball seven times for a game-high 83 yards, and WKU finished the game with 147 yards on the ground.

“You run it, to win it, in the fourth quarter,” WKU coach Tyson Helton said.

I’ll have a complete story on the Hilltoppers’ winning effort on Friday morning. Thanks for reading jimmashek.com …