Tops roll early in 52-22 win over Houston Christian – WBKO

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) – The WKU Football team started fast and took down Houston Christian 52-22 in front of 20,712 fans on Saturday during Parent and Family Weekend at Houchens-Smith Stadium.
“First of all, I want to thank our fans tonight,” WKU head coach Tyson Helton said. “I thought the crowd was outstanding. It was a great college atmosphere. That’s what college football is all about and I love our Hilltopper fans … and so my hat’s off to them. I can’t say thank you enough for the atmosphere they created tonight, and we need to keep doing that for sure.”
The Hilltoppers (2-0) put up 433 yards of offense in the win, which gave the program a 2-0 start in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
Austin Reed threw for 253 yards and four touchdowns on 27 of 33 passing, and he also rushed for a touchdown. Easton Messer led a group of 10 WKU players to catch passes with nine receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. Jimmy Holiday had four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, Blue Smith grabbed three passes for 38 yards and a score, and River Helms and Denzil Alleyne also had touchdown receptions in the victory.
The WKU defense forced three turnovers for the second straight game. Kendrick Simpkins led the unit with six tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Talique Allen had five tackles with a forced fumble, and Upton Stout had a 53-yard pick six to go along with his three tackles.
“Good win. We have a motto – celebrate all wins, right? Celebrate all wins,” Helton said. “Down in the locker room, I had a big smile on my face. Players – about 50% of them had a smile on their face and the other 50% didn’t. I had to remind them we celebrate all wins around here.
“When we get in this building tomorrow, we’ll make all the corrections and you won’t know whether we won or lost. We take a pro mentality about it and we go and we try to get better.”
The Hilltoppers put up 24 of their 52 points in the opening period with a combination of offensive and defensive highlights.
Simpkins ended the first HCU (1-1) drive by putting a big hit on the quarterback and knocking the ball loose for JaQues Evans – the Conference USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and the league’s Week 1 Defensive Player of the Week – to recover.
“We did some things defensively,” Simpkins said. “I feel like later in the game it slowed down – the same energy wasn’t there the whole game – but we definitely started off fast.”
WKU opened the scoring on the ensuing drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Reed to Helms for the first score of the tight end’s college career.
Helms was one of four WKU players on the night to record their first touchdown with the program. Smith capped off the Hilltoppers’ second drive with a 20-yard touchdown reception from Reed, while Holiday and Alleyne added scoring receptions in the fourth quarter to help close out the win.
Lucas Carneiro – the reigning CUSA Special Teams Player of the Week – knocked through a 27-yard field goal with 4:13 to play in the first quarter, and Stout picked off a pass and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown that made it 24-0 by the end of the first quarter.
“Really just trusting the coverage coach put us in – coach (Tyson) Summers,” Stout said. “He’s really called a great game today. I really felt like when he called eyes, I really felt like it was my time to really bait the quarterback.”
Messer added a touchdown reception of 21 yards from Reed midway through the second quarter to put the hosts ahead 31-0, but HCU found back-to-back touchdowns in the final few minutes of the first half to make it a 31-14 game at the break.
Reed finished a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard run for the only points of the third quarter, making it 38-14.
The Huskies kept fighting and added a touchdown early in the fourth, but the Hilltoppers capped off the 52-22 win with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Reed to Holiday and an 8-yard scoring pass from Turner Helton to Alleyne.
“I felt like we played pretty efficiently,” Reed said. “I felt like there were some opportunities left on the field, but you’re always going to feel like that. Considering it’s Week 2, I really like where we’re at in terms of the process of the season. The season’s long and I feel like we’re playing really good football considering how early it is in the season. I feel like we’re playing better offensively at this point than we were last year, so for me, it’s all about that process.”
WKU will hit the road for the first time this season next week with a trip to No. 5 Ohio State. Kickoff at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, is set for 3 p.m. CT.
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