Facing the nation's No.5 team, which features the country's leading running back, in front of over 101,000 opposing fans is a daunting task for any program. Doing so on a very wet night and playing on a grass – changing quickly into mud – field for a team that prefers to throw the ball around, makes such a challenge even more difficult.
That was exactly the situation that Western Kentucky faced on Saturday night against undefeated LSU in Baton Rouge, La., and for longer than most likely expected, the Hilltoppers remained within striking distance of the Tigers. However, second half turnovers doomed all upset hopes as LSU remained perfect on the season with a 48-20 win.
After being forced to punt on its first possession, WKU was put back on its heels almost immediately. With everyone's attention on LSU star running back Leonard Fournette, Tigers head coach Les Miles went to the air to strike first. Following four consecutive hand offs to Fournette, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris connected with Malachi Dupre for a 55-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
The Hilltoppers responded with an early second quarter touchdown. Highlighted by a 35-yard run by D'Andre Ferby, the nine play, 62-yard drive was capped off with a seven yard touchdown pass from Brandon Doughty to Anthony Wales.
The LSU passing game bit the Hilltoppers again late in the second quarter, when Harris found Travin Dural for a 67 yard reception to the WKU 26. Aided by a questionable pass interference that moved the Tigers to the WKU 2-yard line, LSU added its second touchdown on a run by Darrel Williams with 1:25 left in the first half.
Trailing 17-7 after an LSU field goal to open the second half, the WKU offense quickly responded with its second touchdown drive of the game. The five play, 66-yard drive featured four completions by Doughty, including a 39 yard touchdown pass to Antwane Grant. A failed point after attempt left the visitors trailing 17-13 with 8:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Needing a near perfect performance in terrible weather conditions, slipped from the Hilltoppers grasp throughout the remainder of the third quarter. A pair of turnovers – an interception and a kick return fumble – ignited an LSU scoring run that saw the Tigers grab a 34-13 lead heading into the game's final quarter.
WKU added an early fourth quarter touchdown on a 9-yard pass from Doughty to Taywan Taylor to pull within 34-20, but the Tigers added a pair of late touchdowns to secure the victory.
WKU (6-2, 4-0) returns to Conference USA play next weekend. The Hilltoppers travel to Norfolk, Va., to face Old Dominion at noon on Halloween.