Indiana-WKU postgame thoughts

18 09 2010

A couple quick hitters following Western Kentucky’s home-opening 38-14 loss against Indiana at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

1) A step back

– Willie Taggart said it, and I’d have to agree.

But what I think I might agree with more was the statement made by WKU junior safety Ryan Beard toward the very end of Saturday’s postgame press conference.

“We just need that one turning point in our season that tells us that it’s OK for us to be successful,” Beard said. “We don’t have to lose again. We just need that one turning point.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take, but we’ve got to find it.”

Beard’s comments ring true for a team that is now 23-losses into the worst streak in school history and the worst streak currently in the NCAA.

This week and last week, WKU gets early touchdowns and 7-0 leads against major conference opponents. Only to shoot themselves in the foot, over, and over, and over again.

Almost as if the team didn’t feel like it deserved to be in front.

So while Taggart and company continue to talk about how the team’s confidence isn’t hurt, I’d have to disagree.

Once Indiana hit for its final touchdown of the first half to go up 17-7, it seemed like the wind completely went out of the sails of every individual on that WKU sideline.

It stayed that way in the third quarter, as a listless offense continued to sputter and a struggling defense continued with a ‘here we go again’ approach.

WKU finally got a spark late in the third and eventually found the endzone twice in the fourth quarter – but by then, the game was completely out of hand.

The Hilltoppers perked up, but it was far too little, far too late.

In other words, same story, different season.

It was good for Taggart to put an end to the moral victory stance Saturday, because quite honestly, that was a game WKU should have been in throughout.

He came down on the Hilltopper offensive line, which was just. The WKU front five had a stellar first two weeks of the season, not so much this week.

But a good portion of the problem has to also fall with Kawaun Jakes and the receiving corps.

As good as Bobby Rainey is, he can’t be your only source of movement.

Willie McNeal dropped a third-down catch that would have kept a drive going, Jack Doyle still couldn’t get open until the fourth quarter (which isn’t all his fault), Dexter Haynes made an outstanding grab on a 40-yard pass play – but he was flagged for an illegal procedure.

Talk about getting off schedule.

As far as new blood goes, true freshman receiver Donald Campbell got into the game and made some things happen in both the return and receiving game. I was a bit surprised he wasn’t on the travel roster to start the season – don’t be surprised to hear his name a bit more often as things move forward.

As for former Kentucky Mr. Football Antonio Andrews – he did not play Saturday after working with the second-team offense for most of the week.

2) The secondary has a long way to go

– Even if Taggart decides to shuffle things up in the defensive backfield, it would likely mean that he starts a pair of true freshmen at corner next week.

As it is, WKU currently starts a sophomore corner in Jamal Forrest and a junior that’s spent the bulk of his career on offense in Derrius Brooks.

In other words: It might get a lot worse before it gets any better.

WKU is extremely thin in the defensive backfield, but that should come as no surprise to anyone that’s been paying attention.

The Hilltopper corners were picked on early and often and it never stopped.

When Indiana wasn’t throwing at them, it was running toward them.

Hoosier receivers routinely caught passes with far too much room to run after – leading to huge gashes at terrible times.

Can the defensive line get more pressure on the quarterback? Sure. But the defensive backfield has got to be able to do its part, especially on third down.

When a team converts 10 of 12 third down chances, you’ll lose 10 times out of 10. Those are video game type numbers.

“They’ve got some trees, and we’ve got some grass on our side,” Taggart said with reference to his defensive backfield’s size disadvantage Saturday. “They’re big, but that’s no excuse for not taking care of your job.

“We give up big plays when we make mistakes. When we don’t make mistakes, we get stops.”

So what has to change?

Quite honestly, I’m not sure. That’s probably why I’m not a coach (among many, many other reasons).

If it were up to me, however, I’d roll the dice with freshmen Arius Wright and Tyree Robinson at corner next week. Both of them showed flashes Saturday of being corners that will at least play aggressively.

From there, I’d hit the recruiting trail extremely hard when it comes to prospective DBs.

I’d expect Taggart and company will do just that.

It’s going to be tough for this group all season long, there’s really no getting around it. The more the young players play, the better they’ll likely become – but we all know the old saying about what happens when you start multiple true freshmen.

The WKU front seven continues to improve little by little, as evidenced by Indiana’s limited rushing numbers, but the secondary still has an incredibly long way to go.

3) First game, solid crowd

– The first game of the Willie Taggart era at WKU drew over 20,000 fans to Houchens-Smith Stadium.

That has to be considered a success for new athletic director Ross Bjork.

The bad part, however, was the fact that the Hilltoppers really didn’t provide much excitement outside of the game’s first five or six minutes.

Now the in depth football fan will likely be able to see potential with this group and maybe has some patience, but what about the rest?

WKU now faces a very interesting situation when it comes to home attendance – as the Hilltoppers won’t be back at Houchens-Smith Stadium until Oct. 16 against Louisiana-Monroe.

And if WKU falls at South Florida and at Florida International in its next two games, how many folks around the area will still be cranked and ready to watch a Hilltopper football game?

Only time will tell.

WKU still has some extremely cheap tickets in terms of season packages, and quite a bit was done in the offseason to make tailgating a much more fan-friendly event.

Cheap tickets and free parking don’t hurt, but losing football tends to trump all.

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4 responses

19 09 2010
TopperFan

Nick like always excellent reporting. I feel play calling is not good. It is like we play to lose not to win. The end of the 2nd QT and the start of the 3rd QT was really bad. We start the 3rd QT with run then a draw. Then we throw on 3rd and 12? The entire halftime that is what he came up with as in a offensive adjustment. We surprised Indiana. I wonder if Indiana knew we where throwing on 3rd and long. Like I said in previous comments we are too vanilla. Eventually teams will be stopping Rainey. Who is that other player? What is going on with Doyle and McNeal? Jakes is not the QB for this team. He is serviceable for now. When Rainey has success he will be fine but when teams stop Rainey he is not the QB. All of his throws are design for one person and one read when Jakes needs to actually read a defense he has trouble looks lost. Why not play the young players? We have nothing to lose. I am sure other teams in the Sun Belt will watch the tape on how to stop Rainey. Indiana made a nice adjustment after the first WKU drive to bascally stop Rainey and make Jakes throw. Why not throw Matt in there if he can not do it throw in young Doughty. I still feel young Doughty is the future QB for this team. They should of played young Doughty some the first few games. They can play some and still be redshirtted. I do not understand why not play the others to see what they could do. Not just QBs but all positions. Coach Taggart has always said he loves competition. We have not won the last 23 games play the young boys. To sell seats you need to be more exciting throw and have fun. If we are gone to lose fight. It starts with the coaches. Play to Win!!

19 09 2010
BK

With our defense, anything inside the 50 yard line we should go for it on 4th down. It’s only 1 or 2 plays before our opponent will be back there anyways so we might as well try. I believe it was 4th and 5 yesterday and we punted to have IU come back and score.

Great job Nick with the blog.

19 09 2010
LG

The defense needs the adjustment. We have lost 23 straight games and nothing is changing on the defense. We have other defensive players that are standing on the sideline waiting for their chance to show the coaches what they can do. Why not put them in to see if they can stop the 3rd down plays. Why keep using the same guys and keep getting the same results. If coach taggart want the fans to come out and support the team, he needs the change the defence up and get some sacks and shut down the opponent offence. Do something different on the D-line coach!!!

19 09 2010
LG

I keep reading the stats at the end of the game and they keep talking about how many tackles were made and how many yards rainey is racking up. But at the end of the game we want to see some W’s. We have to find a way to get off the 23 game losing streak.

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