Courtesy of Western Kentucky Athletics
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. â€” The White team outscored the Red squad 25-2 in the
second half to pick up a 47-16 win in Western Kentucky University
footballâ€™s annual spring game Saturday night at Houchens Industries-L.T.
â€œThis felt great,â€ said Hilltopper head coach Willie Taggart. â€œThe
White team put up some points and the Red team started off well and kind
of fell off at the end. I told our team the other day that I wanted a
team to come in and win, and win big. I didn't want it to be close. I
want our team to learn that when you have a team down you have to
finish them. I think the White team did that tonight.â€
Wide receiver Willie McNeal was named the gameâ€™s MVP, picking up 83
rushing yards on three carries â€” including a 51-yard touchdown run. He
also had a 30-yard reception.
â€œIt feels good [to be MVP], but I can't really say much about it because
I'm just happy about the team and how we played as a team,â€ said McNeal.
â€œIt starts with the offensive line. I think they deserved to be the MVP.â€
Leading 22-14 at the half, the White team defense got a quick
three-and-out as the offense turned around to go 68 yards in nine plays
to open up a double-digit lead. Bobby Rainey and Braxston Miller
combined to rush for 23 yards on the first eight plays of the drive
before Matt Pelesasa connected with Marcus Vasquez on a 50-yard scoring
pass to open up a 29-14 lead.
Again the White defense came up big as Kareem Peterson intercepted a
Tyler Bruce pass and returned it down to the 18 yard line to give the
White offense a short field. Two plays later, Pelesasa scored from
eight yards out to stretch the lead to 35-14. However, the extra point
attempt was blocked by Kiante Young, and returned the distance for a
defensive PAT to make it a 35-16 score.
That would be the Red teamâ€™s only points of the second half, however, as
the White team scored two fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns â€” a
three-yard run by Miller and an 11-yard scoring dash by Rainey â€” to pick
up the 31-point victory.
Rainey finished the game with 98 rushing yards on 13 carries, and found
the end zone twice. In all, the White squad gained 260 of their 443
yards of total offense on the ground. Pelesasa competed eight of 12
passes for 183 yards and a pair of scores. The junior college
quarterback also rushed for 37 yards on nine carries.
After watching the White team drive on the opening drive of the game,
the red defense came up big deep in their own territory, getting a
third-down sack and stop on fourth down to end the threat. The red
offense responded, going 69 yards in nine plays â€” picking up 59 of those
yards on the ground. In fact, the only pass play of the drive was a
10-yard completion from Bruce to Rod Johnson to set up the White team
inside the five. Derrius Brooks then scored on a four-yard run to put
Red in front 7-0.
White responded with an 80-yard drive in just 3:26, getting a 35-yard
touchdown run from Rainey to get on the board. Pelesasa then found
Chris Brice on the two-point conversion to put White in front 8-7 at the
end of the first quarter.
After forcing a Red punt and getting the ball near midfield, White
needed just one play as McNeal scored from 51 yards out on a
wide-receiver run as White opened up a 14-7 advantage. White would
extend its lead thanks to a 13-play, 87-yard drive that was capped by a
15-yard scoring strike from Pelesasa to Jim Murphree with 3:25 remaining
before halftime. Pelesasa again found Brice on the two-point conversion
to stretch the lead to 22-7.
After coming up empty on two straight possessions, Red got a quick
strike â€” and a little bit of luck â€” as Brooks pulled in a tipped pass
and went 66 yards for the score, cutting the White lead to 22-14 at
halftime before White blew it open in the second half.
Offensively for the Red squad, Keshawn Simpson picked up 85 rushing
yards on 15 carries. Bruce completed five of 20 passes for 138 yards
and a score, hooking up with five different receivers. Brooks led both
teams in receiving yards with his 66-yard touchdown catch. In fact,
Brooks accounted for both of the Vasquez caught two balls for 59 yards
to lead the White team.
Defensively, Thomas Majors had a game-high 11 tackles for the Red team,
while Josh Carter led the White team with six stops.
The spring game brought an end to four weeks of practice for the
Hilltoppers as they now turn their attention to summer workouts before
camp opens in August.
â€œThe guys are starting to learn how we want things done and they are
starting to learn the offense,â€ said Taggart. â€œGuys are learning how we
want them to play the game, which is with a lot of excitement and a lot
of emotion. We told our guys that when we step on this field we come to
put on a show. We owe it to our fans to come out here and put on a show.
I know we got better this spring and I think we showed that tonight.â€