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Aug. 23—There are statistical reasons why the Western Kentucky football team went 5-7 in 2020 as opposed to 7-5, or, with a break or two, perhaps 9-3 — and the Hilltoppers must turn those statsitics around if they expect to turn around their won-lost record this fall.

Last year, WKU was maddeningly ineffective on offense; so much so, that’s it’s diffficult to understand where those five victories came from.

On the ground, the Hilltoppers’ top ruaher, Gaej Walker, gained just 645 yards and scored three touchdowns in 12 games. Walker did average 4.5 yards per carry, however, which turned out to be significantly better than the rest of his running mates.

As a unit, Western averaged only 3.9 yards per carry and scored 12 TDs on the ground. Conversely, Hilltopper opponents averaged 4.2 yards per rush and found the end zone 20 times.

WKU’s passing attack was equally ineffective, despite some statistical numbers to the contrary.

Maryland graduate transfer quarterback Tyrell Pigrome, for instance, threw only two interceptions all season, but he also threw for only nine scores — stats clearly indicative of an attack that sorely lacked a dynamic quality.

Western’s top receiver, Mitchell Tinsley, caught 43 passes, but he gained only 377 yards (8.8 ypc) with four touchdown receptions. No other receiver on the team caught more than 34 passes or scored more than three TDs. That’s not enough octane in the tank.

As a whole, Hilltopper receivers averaged only 9.5 yards per reception, whereas, the opposition averaged 12.5 yards per catch.

Western’s kick return game was also woefully subpar, as the Hilltoppers averaged just 17 yards per kickoff return with no touchdowns (opponents averaged 20.6 with one TD), and a stunningly bad 2.5 yards on 11 punt returns with, of course, no scores (opponents averaged 12.5 with one TD).

Any way you care to slice and dice it, the WKU offense put up losing numbers last fall.

The Hilltopper defense didn’t set the world on fire, either, surrendering nearly 350 yards per game. WKU was outstanding in spots, but nonetheless lacked the pop of previous units. No one on the squad, for instance, collected more than one interception. Odd.

Fortunately, the Hilltoppers’ kicking game played a significant role in salvaging a somewhat respectable season.

Austrailian-born punter John Haggarty was quite simply one of the best in the nation, averaging 45.7 yards per boot, and place-kicker Brayden Narveson was nearly automatic the entire season — drilling 13 field goals in 14 attempts and making all 27 of his extra-point tries.

Blessedly, for WKU fans, both kickers are back.

Now, those same supporters are hoping that the Hilltoppers can get back to being one of the most dynamic, fun-to-watch offenses in America — as they were a mere five years ago.

If they do, this will be an exciting team to track in 2021.