WKU FOOTBALL | Illinois Slows Down Hilltoppers' Offense Saturday Night

09/10/2017 01:08 AM

The WKU Hilltoppers were hoping to get the program’s first-ever win against a Big Ten opponent this weekend.

But on Saturday night, the Illinois Fighting Illini had something to say about that.

Illinois (2-0) beat WKU (1-1) inside Memorial Stadium, despite the Hilltoppers entering the game as the favorites. The final was 20-7.

The story of the night was the WKU offense, or lack thereof. Western Kentucky fans are so used to seeing the Hilltoppers score at will, but on Saturday, the offense only totaled 244 total yards of offense. In fact, WKU had only six net rushing yards the entire game.

Illinois on the other hand finished with 300 yards of total offense.

The game was close late into the first half, as Illinois had a 6-0 lead with under two minutes to go until halftime. But, with 1:21 to go until halftime, Illinois linebacker Julian Jones intercepted WKU quarterback Mike White and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown, giving the Fighting Illini a 13-0 lead at halftime.

Each team scored a touchdown then in the second half, resulting the 20-7 final.

WKU’s Mike White finished the game going 28 of 43 for 238 passing yards and an interception. He also had a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

After the game, White said even though the offense struggled, he believes it is correctable:

Meanwhile, Illinois’ QB Chayce Crouch finished the night 14 of 25 for 107 yards and an interception. Like White though, he also had a rushing touchdown.

As for other playmakers in the match-up, Illinois running back Mike Epstein had 21 carries for 111 yards. WKU receiver Nacarius Fant had 10 receptions for 110 yards. Fant’s numbers were both career highs.

Other notable stats in the loss include WKU’s third-down conversions (2-of-12) and penalties (11 for 100 yards).

WKU will hope to bounce back next Saturday when it begins Conference USA play, by hosting Louisiana Tech. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. ET inside Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Andrew Chernoff

Andrew is a sports anchor and sports managing editor for Spectrum News. He covers sports all across the state of Kentucky for Sports Night, which airs weeknights at 6:30 and 10:30 on Spectrum News. Andrew was a sports anchor and reporter at KFDM/KBTV in Beaumont, Texas for four years before making the move back home to the Midwest. He is originally from Carmel, Indiana and majored in broadcast journalism and political science at Syracuse University.

When he’s not on the air or in the field covering sports, you can likely find Andrew playing golf, watching IndyCar and Formula 1 races, or exploring the state of Kentucky. His favorite sport is open-wheel racing. In fact, he has not missed an Indianapolis 500 since the early 2000s.

Whether he is working sporting events or not, he always loves talking sports. He is a prolific tweeter, so if you want to stay “in the know” about sports in the Bluegrass, follow Andrew on Twitter @ADChernoff. If you have a story idea for our sports team, send it to Andrew at Andrew.Chernoff@charter.com.

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