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Western Kentucky quarterback Kevaris Thomas (center) looks to pass Saturday in the second half against Marshall at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Western Kentucky head coach Tyson Helton said his team’s 38-14 loss to Marshall at Houchens-Smith Stadium on Saturday “was a pretty bad performance as a team overall” and that the Thundering Herd are “a very talented team, but that’s no excuse for the poor execution that we made, particularly offensively for most of the game.”

He also said if there was a positive to take from it, it was that the Hilltoppers continued to fight until the end.

The positives in WKU’s offense only really started in the final series of the third quarter, after backup quarterback Kevaris Thomas had entered the game.

“Just got to stay ready for the opportunity,” Thomas said after the game.

Thomas finished with 148 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-18 passing, and led WKU (1-3 overall, 1-1 Conference USA) with 30 yards rushing and one touchdown on seven attempts.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound redshirt sophomore didn’t come in until the game was well out of reach, however. Marshall took a 35-0 lead when Tavante Beckett scooped up the ball on a botched handoff from Tyrrell Pigrome to Jakairi Moses and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.

Pigrome had 61 yards on 12-of-21 passing and 28 yards rushing on seven attempts to that point. He fumbled once each in the first and second quarter, and both turnovers resulted in Marshall touchdowns – the latter of which made it 28-0 with 27 seconds left in the half.

“We had put the ball on the ground a couple times at quarterback,” Helton said after the game. “Piggy was struggling, in my opinion – I haven’t seen the film. Just seeing things and not to put the blame on him – he played a good defense. They were getting after us and our O-line, so he was having to scramble.

“I felt like he was having a hard night and we weren’t making any yards at all and we needed a spark, a change of some sort. I put KT in there and I thought he did a nice job. I thought he did good. I’ll have to watch the film and see kind of where we’re at, but I thought he did good for what we asked of him.”

WKU had just 91 yards of offense when Thomas entered for the first time with 9:14 left in the third quarter. Noah Whittington rushed for a yard on first down, but the Hilltoppers followed with two plays of no gain and were forced to punt. Marshall added a 28-yard field goal from Shane Ciucci on its ensuing possession.

But when the Hilltoppers’ offense took the field with 2:22 to play in the period, Thomas showed his arm that members of the team and staff had talked about through camp, before Pigrome was named starting quarterback. Moses – who provided a needed spark in WKU’s fourth-quarter scoring drive in its win at Middle Tennessee the previous week – rushed twice for 7 and 11 yards, and Thomas followed with a 51-yard pass down the left sideline to Xavier Lane. He then ran for four yards, and then two more into the end zone to get WKU on the board.

WKU’s next drive stalled out after going from its own 26 to the Marshall 27, but after getting the ball back with 1:43 to play, Thomas led a drive that resulted in a 26-yard touchdown pass to Dalvin Smith with 6 seconds left.

“I’m very comfortable throwing the ball and, once again, I just listen to my coach, kept everything he told me in my head and I went out and did it,” Thomas said.

Thomas appeared in only one game last season, completing a 6-yard pass to quarterback Ty Storey on a trick play at Southern Miss. He played in three games as a freshman, where he saw time in short-yardage situations and finished with 18 yards and a touchdown on six attempts. Thomas was rated a four-star recruit and the 22nd-best quarterback in the nation by 247Sports out of Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Fla., and was the highest-rated high school recruit to ever sign at WKU.

Pigrome was coming off his best game of the season in the 20-17 win at Middle Tennessee. He threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-36 passing and led the team with 55 yards rushing on 16 attempts. The graduate transfer from Maryland was named Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Week following the performance.

Helton said Pigrome had “made good steps” in his first three games leading into Saturday, and was hoping he’d have a breakout game soon. Pigrome entered Saturday’s game with 498 yards on 49-of-84 passing with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He also led the team with 197 yards rushing on 47 attempts through three games.

But with WKU’s offensive struggles early this season – the Hilltoppers have the 10th-worst scoring offense at 19.8 points per game among the 12 C-USA programs that have played this year and are last in total offense at 289.8 yards per game – will Pigrome remain the starter, or will the Hilltoppers move to Thomas?

“I don’t know. (Pigrome’s) our quarterback today, yeah. Piggy’s our quarterback today,” Helton said immediately following the loss. “I thought KT did some good things, but yeah, Piggy’s the quarterback today. But I evaluate every position – who plays wideout? Who plays running back? I evaluate all the running backs. So we’ll see what happens. But yeah, as of today, Piggy is the quarterback.”

WKU is scheduled to play at UAB this coming Saturday. The 3-1 Blazers are ranked fourth in C-USA in scoring defense (22.2 points allowed per game) and total defense (345 yards allowed per game). Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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