Louisville defeats WKU 38-21

Western Kentucky quarterback Steven Duncan (center) fumbles as he is hit by Louisville defensive linemen Tabarius Peterson (left) and Amonte Caban during the Cardinals’ 38-21 win over WKU on Saturday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

NASHVILLE – Tyson Helton won’t apologize for having an aggressive offense.

Although Western Kentucky didn’t have much of a choice in going for it on fourth downs in a rallying effort against Louisville, finishing drives with scores continues to be an issue for the Hilltoppers.

Is it a matter of schematics or simply execution?

“Your guess is as good as mine,” WKU coach Tyson Helton said of the team’s trending lapses in second-half drives. “As a coach, you’re always going to try to put your team in the best position to go out and execute. Sometimes they played good defense and sometimes we didn’t execute and that’s football.”

Whether substituting touchdowns for field goals or failed fourth-down conversions, WKU (1-2) once again experienced incomplete drives in the second half with opportunities in its grasp.

The Hilltoppers played catch-up for three quarters in a 38-21 loss to the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday at Nissan Stadium and couldn’t finish its last three drives with scores. Kyle Fourtenbary caught the last score of the game with 12:50 left in the fourth quarter to set the final 17-point margin, but WKU turned the ball over on downs at the Louisville 43 and 8-yard lines and the final one at its own 39.

Receiver Lucky Jackson dropped a potential score when quarterback Steven Duncan hit his hands in the back of the end zone on an 8-yard pass attempt. That capped a 10-play drive midway through the fourth quarter.

WKU finished 1-of-4 on fourth-down attempts, moving them to 1-of-7 in that category through three games.

“Nothing about it is frustrating,” receiver Jacquez Sloan said. “We’re all good. We’re going to get things working. We’ve got a bye this week and we have to keep working and get it right.”

This all started in the season-opening loss to Central Arkansas. WKU was outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter and came up empty for the game on three fourth-down attempts.

The team finished drives with scores against FIU in Week 2, but it came with field goals instead of touchdowns. Cory Munson’s two field goals were the difference in a 20-14 victory in Miami.

Then as WKU kept clawing back against the Cardinals, it couldn’t complete drives late in the fourth quarter.

“We’ll go back and try to continue to get better,” Helton said. “I tell the team to get better every single day and keep battling and good things will happen. It’s not one game. It’s a whole body of work over a season, so we’ll look back on the body of work and want to feel good about what we put together.”

Duncan took the responsibility on himself as the quarterback. For the second straight week, he was responsible for a turnover that led to an opponent’s score. The bye week comes at a good time for the Hilltoppers before their next game against UAB on Sept. 28.

Duncan said he’ll take the extra week to evaluate his own performances as the leader of WKU’s offense.

“First challenge is to just wipe it clean with next-play mentality,” Duncan said. “These three games are done and even those two games before that were done and that’s the mindset coming in. They’re done, put it in the past, we’re going to get better, I’m going to do it and that’s my mindset.”

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

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