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September 20, 2008Talk about a house party.
WKU opened up its newly renovated house, Houchens Industries- LT Smith Stadium with a 50-9 beat-down of its house guests before sending them on their way.
The Toppers easily disposed of visiting Murray State (1-3), in front of a stadium record crowd of 22,297.
Getting out to slow starts in each of its first three games, WKU (2-2) was able to score on its first four offensive possessions, though two ended with field goals by senior kicker Tanner Siewert.
"I thought (the start) was ok," coach David Elson said. "I was hoping to get off to a little better start offensively, running the ball. They're pretty good. They've got some big ol' cats up front and was impressed by them, physically in person."
The Toppers' biggest boost came defensively, in which they ended four of Murray State's first half drives with interceptions.
Junior linebacker Blake Boyd jumped to intercept one of sophomore quarterback Chris Franklin's passes at the line of scrimmage. He returned the second quarter interception 25 yards untouched for a touchdown.
Interceptions by WKU were also made in the first half by redshirt freshman safety Ryan Beard, redshirt freshman Mark Santoro and sophomore safety Orlando Misaalefua.
"That's always one thing that we definitely focus on is turnovers," Boyd said. "We haven't been able to get as many as we've wanted to in the last few games, but definitely being able to come out and get those turnovers, when they were driving the field, it swings the momentum in your favor, when they get a little momentum behind them, getting the turnover and getting the stop. That's one of our key things that we wanna do on defense."
Murray State's only touchdown came on a second quarter interception by senior safety Will Werner. Any brief energy was muffed, when the ensuing extra point was blocked by senior linebacker Alonzo Higgins. Senior cornerback Marcus Minor scooped up the loose ball and nearly broke loose towards the other end zone before being tackled.
Special teams also shone for the Toppers in the return game.
Redshirt freshman running back Bobby 'make it' Rainey returned the kickoff after a third quarter field goal by Murray State 92 yards, before being tackled at the one-yard line.
Following a Murray State penalty, junior running back Marell Booker punched in a one-yard touchdown.
"Field position is huge," Elson said. "With our coverage teams, we wanted to pin them inside the 20 at least six times. I don't know if we did that or not, but it felt like we did. Then, we wanted to get our return game going and by moving Bobby back there, we've just seen him do some good things. He's a guy that's gonna break tackles and once again, it's a momentum changer for your football team, to get a good return, to block a kick."
Offensively, the Toppers outgained Murray State 361-239 in yardage.
In his second game as the starter since replacing sophomore quarterback KJ Black, senior David Wolke completed 15 of 25 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown.
Black, who dislocated his left, non-throwing shoulder at Eastern Kentucky, dressed but did not see any action. Elson said that Black will play with the starters in practice this week and will start at Kentucky.
"I think that a bunch of guys made some big plays," Wolke said. "I think that's what we wanted to do this game. The way they played defense, we thought we could get downfield on them more and throw some deep balls. I just think that everybody played a really great game. Some people made some plays, the o-line blocked great, the running backs ran great, everybody played a really good football game and the score shows it."
Though he caught a 38-yard pass from Wolke on the Toppers' first play from scrimmage, redshirt freshman wide receiver Derrius Brooks injured his foot and didn't make any other receptions.
Beard bruised his elbow after his interception return, but came back and played in the second half. Junior wide receiver Jake Gaebler also missed his second game in a row with a back injury.
Though crews worked well past the eleventh hour to ready the stadium, the result was just as impressive as the Toppers' win.
WKU will now return to the road for consecutive games at Kentucky and Virginia Tech, before returning home to play Ball State.