Blackshirts on the brain

31 08 2010

For the second day in a row, Nebraska’s vaunted defense was a topic of conversation between the Western Kentucky football program and the media.

WKU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen – who saw plenty of the Cornhuskers during his 12-year stint at Kansas – offered up a few thoughts on a unit that finished last season No. 1 in the country in overall scoring defense.

“One thing that gives them a tremendous advantage is that they’ve got four very good players up front with their D-line,” Bowen said. “That allows them to not have to weight the box with an extra safety – they’re a gap short up there, but with those big guys, one of them will play two gaps. Not a lot of teams in college football have that luxury, but they do. It allows them to stop the run and get pressure with that front four.

“They’re a sound defense, they don’t allow big plays and you’re going to earn everything you get from them. … They’ve got players. (Coach Bo Pelini) and his staff have done a nice job recruiting over the last three years and getting some kids in there that are really legitimate guys.”

WKU head coach Willie Taggart basically echoed the same thoughts as Bowen with regard to Nebraska’s defense. But at the same time, he hinted that this year is a new season – and the same can be said for one of the top-ranked defensive units from a season ago.

“They’ve got a head coach that’s a defensive guy and he’s been good everywhere he’s been, so I’d expect them to be very good again,” Taggart said. “But I will say this – last year’s history, this year’s a mystery and today is an opportunity for us all to determine our legacy. Same with them. Last year’s history. Whether they were good then or not. We’ll see how it goes, if we come out and are sharp and play like we’re capable – I won’t be concerned at all.”

Sluggish afternoon

After generally being pleased following practices during fall camp, Taggart wasn’t exactly thrilled with his team’s effort Tuesday during the second day of its first game week of the season.

Taggart said that mental sharpness continues to be an issue, and things weren’t as crisp as he would have liked this evening. He spent a great deal of time Monday talking about how sharp WKU has to be in every way in order to contend with Nebraska on Saturday – those thoughts didn’t change this afternoon.

“It wasn’t up to my expectation. We did some good things, but we need to be more consistent preparing for Nebraska,” Taggart said. Too many little things we’ve been doing wrong, hopefully we’ll be a lot sharper (Wednesday). It’s just those little things that get to me, things that we can’t do come Saturday.

“We’re not as talented as everyone else to be able to just beat ourselves and still win a ballgame. I look at teams that lost to Nebraska last year – some of them beat themselves. We need to make sure we’re locked in and everyone knows what they’re doing on every single play.”

Not concerned with crowd noise

Outside of having to contend with Nebraska’s defense Saturday, WKU will also have to deal with more than 80,000 boisterous Cornhusker fans in Memorial Stadium.

But having played at Florida, at Alabama, at Tennessee and at Virginia Tech since the 2007 season, most of the Hilltoppers say that crowd noise really doesn’t bother them much any longer.

“That doesn’t bother me at all, we block that out,” WKU junior running back Bobby Rainey said. “You don’t play the crowd, you play an opponent – so that’s who you focus on.”

And while Rainey doesn’t necessarily doubt that Memorial Stadium won’t be rowdy come kickoff Saturday, he said he highly doubts it will get as noisy as it was when the Hilltoppers visited Virginia Tech and famed Lane Stadium in 2008.

“I don’t think it’ll ever get that bad again,” Rainey laughed. “That was the loudest place I’ve ever been. Me and (former WKU running back Marell Booker) were in kickoff return standing right beside each other and we couldn’t hear each other – I was like, ‘wow.’ We were at Alabama that year, too and it was just fine – I could hear, everything was cool.

“But at Virginia Tech? You couldn’t hear nothing. I don’t think we’ll play anyone where it’s that loud again, as far as I know anyway.”

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