NCAA Football: Western Kentucky 30-14 over Charlotte

Western Kentucky linebacker Mario Wright (left), defensive lineman DeAngelo Malone (center) and linebacker Kyle Bailey celebrate after a play Oct. 19 during WKU’s 30-14 win over Charlotte at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Western Kentucky football finished the 2019 season with one of the best defenses in college football.

With the completion of the college football season with LSU’s win in the College Football Playoff Championship on Monday, the final statistical rankings of the season have the Hilltoppers with a top 25 defense and one of the best rates in third-down stops.

WKU allowed just 20.1 points per game for the 22nd-best scoring defense in the country. The team’s 335.5 yards per game allowed ranks 24th nationally and the Toppers’ third-down conversion rate on defense of 29.7 percent ranked seventh in the country, the lowest mark for the school since 1987.

WKU’s scoring defense ranked as the top among teams in Conference USA and is the best for the program since 2004. Taking away four defensive touchdowns by opponents, that average would drop to 17.9 points per game the WKU defense allowed.

The Hilltoppers return all but three main contributors on that defense in 2020 with the graduation of defensive back Ta’Corian Darden, defensive tackle Jaylon George and defensive end Carson Jordan.

WKU returns the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in defensive end DeAngelo Malone, who set a school record and tied for fourth-nationally with 21 tackles for loss.

Here’s how WKU ranked in more national statistics in 2019:

• Third-down conversion rate – 54th, 41 percent

• Third-down conversion defense – 7th, 29.7 percent

• Fourth-down conversion – 33rd, 60 percent

• Fourth-down conversion defense – 56th, 50 percent

Blocked kicks – 14th, 3

Blocked kicks allowed, T-1st, 0 (29 teams tied)

Blocked punts – 21st, 1

Blocked punts allowed – T-1st, 0 (77 teams tied)

Completion percentage – 14th, 66.7 percent

Defensive touchdowns – 33rd, 2

Fewest penalties – 3rd, 53

Fewest penalties per game – 3rd, 4.08

Fewest penalty yards – 14th, 514

Fewest penalty yards per game – 11th, 39.54

First downs defense – 15th, 224

First downs offense – 67th, 267

Fumbles lost – 72nd, 9

Fumbles recovered – 118th, 4

Kickoff return defense – 28th, 18.75

Kickoff returns – 92nd, 19.17

Net punting – 13th, 41.59

Interceptions – 91st, 12

Interceptions defense – 46th, 11

Passing offense – 40th, 259.3

Passing defense – 28th, 199.9

Yards per completion – 116th, 10.77

Punt return defense – 56th, 6.84

Punt returns – 115th, 4.06

Red zone defense – 19th, 75.8 percentage

Red zone offense – 95th, 78 percentage

Rushing defense – 34th, 135.5

Rushing offense – 109th, 128.5

Sacks allowed – 29th, 1.54

Scoring defense – 22nd, 20.1

Scoring offense – 91st, 25.4

Tackles for loss allowed – 14th, 4.62

Team passing efficiency – 62nd, 136

Team passing efficiency defense – 35th, 123

Team sacks – 72nd, 2

Team tackles for loss – 94th, 5.3

Time of possession – 23rd, 32:00

Total defense – 24th, 335.5

Total offense – 84th, 387.8

Turnover margin – 100th, -0.46

Turnovers gained – 97th, 15

Turnovers lost – 94th, 21

Winning percentage – 28th, 69.2 percent{&end}

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

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