WKU wide receivers step up when Corley goes out

Published 2:34 pm Monday, September 4, 2023

By Micheal Compton, Bowling Green Daily News

Entering the season, the Western Kentucky football team could easily point to the receiving corps as one of the team’s biggest strengths.

That group got tested right off the bat in Saturday’s 41-24 win over South Florida at Houchens-Smith Stadium with injuries quickly depleting the WR depth.

WKU’s second leading returning wideout Michael Mathison did not dress out due to an injury that occurred during the preseason. Then on the third offensive series of the day, WKU’s top receiver Malachi Corley was shaken up and came off the field. He returned for one play on the next series before eventually leaving on a cart. He would return to the sidelines, but did not play.

Following the win, WKU coach Tyson Helton said he got hit in the chest and went for X-rays, but the early belief is Corley will be “fine” going forward.

“I don’t know the prognosis yet,” Helton said. “My guess is he has a bruised chest or something. He will be fine. I talked to him after the game. He was great, in good spirits. He said, ‘Coach, I’ll be back here real soon.’ ”

In Corley’s absence it became a group effort, with everyone doing their part.

Glasgow product Dalvin Smith led WKU in targets (11) and receptions (seven), including a 42-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter that gave WKU its first lead of the day.

“We have a motto, ‘One man goes down, the next man up,’” Smith said. “That’s all today really was, seeing how much depth we truly (have) offensively and we proved it today.”

Blue Smith tallied five catches for 50 yards, while K.D. Hutchinson had four catches for 35 yards. Easton Messer hauled in both of his targets for 18 yards, with Mousa Barry delivering on his one catch – a 51-yard touchdown down the sidelines that gave the Hilltoppers the lead for good.

“Just a lot of guys stepped up to the plate when our key player on offense went out, so that was really good to see,” Helton said. “I thought a lot of guys stepped up – first time, their first game. It was good to see all those guys battle and roll. There’s a lot we have to get better at though, which was pretty obvious out there.”

Quarterback Austin Reed also praised the group effort from the wide receivers.

“Those guys were ready,” Reed said. “It’s just like looking those guys in the eyes and telling them, ‘Let’s go.’

“… Guys get hurt. Obviously there are important players and you don’t want them to get hurt, but at the end of the day football is a violent sport. Players are going to get hurt. You have to step up when your number gets called and I’m really proud of these guys. I thought they did.”

While Helton said postgame that WKU is hopeful that Corley won’t be out long, WKU’s offense showed on Saturday that it could pick up the slack if the absence was extended. Smith said after Saturday’s performance the confidence among wide receivers has only grown.

“We have a lot of dogs in the (receiver’s room). It doesn’t matter who it is. We can throw anybody out there and they are going to know what to do, how to do it. That’s just our job — catch the ball and make plays.”