We've reached the halfway point in the season, and at 4-2, the Hilltoppers are nestled in a good position to extend their season beyond their final regular season game on November 30th and into the most wonderful time of the year, bowl season.
Sure, Western Kentucky could be 5-1 or possibly 6-0 (yes, more of a long shot I know), but a turnover riddled meltdown in Knoxville and a sleep-walking second half in Mobile are the main reasons there is two in the loss column.
You can chalk it up to early season adjustments - a new coaching staff instilling their schemes and a team still trying to adjust to the newness of those schemes in live-game action.
Whatever the case may be, the newness is wearing off and the Hilltoppers appear to be heading in the right direction coming off of two solid performances against Navy and Louisiana-Monroe.
What's the difference? It's easy - confidence.
Something WKU established during the Kentucky game, but lost during their time in Knoxville.
Maybe it took a blowout win over the likes of Morgan State to instill a bit of confidence in this team. I mean, who doesn't enjoy beating up on inferior competition? It's a great way to improve your technique, sharpness, and make your game air-tight.
After a couple of humiliating losses, a tune-up fight against the mighty Bears from the SWAC couldn't have come at a better time. Since then, Western Kentucky has been rollin' harder than Limp Bizkit circa 2001.
Offensive perspective last two games:
- 947 yards of total offense
- 337 rushing yards by Antonio Andrews
- 73% completion percentage by Brandon Doughty
- 50 total first downs
Defensive perspective last two games:
- 574 total yards allowed
- 223 total rushing yards allowed
- 26 first downs allowed
- 18 total tackles by Xavius Boyd
Those are some stats from the last two wins over Navy and Louisiana-Monroe, if those numbers tell you anything, it's that the offense is more efficient, the defense is tightening up, and oh yeah, Antonio Andrews is that damn good.
The passing game is getting there, slowly transitioning away from the dink-and-dunk approach in the first five games towards a more open, down-the-field approach as we saw at the Duck Dynasty headquarters last Thursday night. WKU averaged 10.3 yards per pass attempt, the most so far this season.
Shutting down Navy's triple-option offense has been the shining moment for WKU's defense this season. Following that effort up with a solid bend-but-don't-break performance against the Warhawks makes you believe that the pieces are starting to fall into place for Nick Holt's defensive unit.
As for Antonio Andrews, oh, he just leads the nation in rushing yards (882) and is second in all-purpose yards (1,343), just another typical season for one of the nation's best running backs.
While Petrino knew he had something special in Andrews before the season started, he realizes it even more as the season has progressed. It is amazing how well this offense moves when Andrews gets 25+ carries a game - he's ate well the past two games.
Challenges do await the Hilltoppers in the final six games of the season, none bigger than Tuesday night's showdown with Louisiana-Lafayette, but we'll dig into that matchup later.
For now, 4-2 is where Western Kentucky stands and they seem to be peaking at the right time.