HONOLULU – September 4, 2022 – (content by WKUSports.com)
The WKU defense forced six turnovers in the Hilltoppers’ first-ever meeting with Hawaii, including a pick six by Juwuan Jones, on the way to beating the Rainbow Warriors 49-17 late Saturday night.
With the win, WKU improved to 2-0 on the season while Hawaii dropped to 0-2 in defeat.
“Great job by our defense,” said WKU head coach Tyson Helton. They had a ton of takeaways and a bunch of crucial stops. They gave the offense great field position all night. It was just a great team win. I thought the offense did a really good job when we needed to score points, but when you can win games playing great defense, those are the most enjoyable for me.”
The Hilltoppers outgained Hawaii by a margin of 412-360 on the night, including a 141-94 advantage on the ground and 271-266 advantage through the air. A big part of WKU’s ability to force turnovers came from getting into the Hawaii backfield as the Tops made eight tackles for loss, including two sacks with an additional six quarterback hurries. On the flip side, the WKU offensive line did not allow quarterback Austin Reed to be sacked once.
Reed finished the night with 271 yards and three passing touchdowns on a 22-of-31 effort. He also added 43 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Daewood Davis finished the night as WKU’s leader in receiving yards by hauling in five catches for 78 yards, while Dalvin Smith, Jaylen Hall and Joshua Simon all caught touchdowns. Kye Robichaux was WKU’s top rusher for the game with 49 yards on seven carries and a score. Davion Ervin-Poindexter also found the end zone for WKU.
Defensively, Will Ignont was the leading tackler for the Tops with eight total takedowns. JaQues Evans and Kahlef Hailassie each recorded sacks and finished with five tackles apiece. Kaleb Oliver led the big turnover output with two interceptions, and was joined by B.J. Wagner, Upton Stout and Jones’ pick six. At the end of the game, Matthew Flint also recovered a fumble on special teams.
WKU got off to a slow start in the first quarter after a muffed punt gave Hawaii first and goal from the three-yard line. The Hilltopper defense stepped up big, though, and held the Rainbow Warriors to just a field goal. That stop enabled the WKU offense to buy time until it started clicking in the second quarter.
Minutes into quarter number two, the Tops drove 68 yards to earn their first points of the night. Reed connected with Smith from five yards out for both his first catch and first touchdown of the year to ignite a big quarter for WKU.
On the ensuing drive, the WKU defense forced Hawaii into a third down and brought pressure on the Hawaii quarterback, forcing him to make a bad pass. Waiting on the other end of that pass was Jones who secured the interception and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. Jones’ score marked WKU’s second pick six in two games after Stout earned one of his own in the season-opening win versus Austin Peay.
As the clock ticked closer to halftime, the Tops gained possession again and had a first and 10 from the Hawaii 47-yard line. Co-Offensive Coordinator Ben Arbuckle then dialed up a trick play that featured a double-reverse pass. Reed delivered a perfect ball to Simon streaking down the sideline, and Simon broke multiple tackles after the catch to find pay dirt. Just like Smith, it was Simon’s first catch and first touchdown of the year, and the score earned the Tops a 21-10 lead going into the locker room break.
Midway through the third quarter with both teams trading punts to start the half, Oliver made his first of two interceptions on the night and returned it 42 yards to the Hawaii 17-yard line, setting up a scoring opportunity for the WKU offense. On the very next play, Reed threw a strike to the front pylon where Hall was waiting for his first touchdown as a Hilltopper. The next scoring drive would produce the first rushing touchdown of the season for the Tops when Kye Robichaux punched in six points from seven yards out.
Already up 35-17, WKU would go on to add 14 points in the final six minutes of the game to close the victory. Reed and Ervin-Poindexter each scored from two yards out to put the game away. Then, in fitting fashion, the defense closed the game on a goal line stand to prevent the Rainbow Warriors from adding any additional points.
After the long journey to Hawaii, the Tops will now enjoy a much-needed bye week before heading to Indiana for a Sept. 17, matchup with the Hoosiers. Kickoff for that game is slated for 11 a.m. CT.
For all the latest on WKU Football, follow @WKUFootball on Twitter and Instagram and like the WKU Football Facebook page.