Through the highs and the lows this season, there's been one element that's been a common theme in each one.
And it's been on both sides of the ball.
Mistakes have been present in multiple areas. Coach David Elson and have staff have no doubt lost sleep picking their brains to figure out the cause and solution.
The bumbles have been prevalent mainly in the form of penalties and turnovers. WKU has lost six fumbles and thrown six interceptions. The 46 penalties by the Toppers are 13 more than their opponents.
At Monday's media luncheon, Elson mentioned that some changes would be made to practice. There were a few differences even today that included a louder p.a. system playing music.
"One thing I kinda reverted back to, I learned this from a guy in coaching a long time ago, he said if you really look at it and you look at mistakes, missed assignments, alignment mistakes, whatever it may be, two words: concentration and communication," Elson said. "When you go back and say how did that happen? Did it get communicated properly? Yeah, it was said out loud, but somebody wasn't concentrating and didn't hear the call. We're just trying to really work on guys getting that call."
Part of getting everything where it needs to be is dialing back practice a little bit to make things simpler.
"On the offense, we've paired it down the last three weeks and trying to continue to get consistency with a young football team, with a team that hasn't been out there a lot and played a lot," offensive coordinator Walter Wells said. "We've got new quarterbacks when it was Brandon (Smith) and then Kawaun (Jakes). They're seeing things for the first time. People are getting video on them and now are defending them differently. Those guys have just gotta understand how to continue to study the game and approach the game. Young kids, that's something that they've gotta learn and unfortunately, we're learning it the hardest way possible."
But it can't be all chalked up to youth. There's been some things that have just been unexplainable. Elson mentioned Monday that he was baffled at Jakes' two fumbled snaps from the shotgun.
"It's basically the speed of the game," Jakes said. "I had so much to do on that play, it just was speed of the game. It's not as slow as practice. I was surprised. I didn't think that was gonna happen. I put it on myself. It was my mistake. It came right to my hands and I dropped it."
Jakes, Elson and others have all agreed that a big majority of the mistakes have come mentally, including Jakes' fumbles. How is that fixable?
"It's all in the mind," Jakes said. "Jumping offsides, turnovers, that's all a mind thing, so just get it mentally. It's basically within yourself. Just be mentally tough."
The mental aspect is certainly true with a lot of the mistakes that have been made on the offensive line, which has had its share, like the rest of the team.
"We've been focused on it more in practice," junior right tackle Preston King said. "We're trying to play physical but at the same time play smart and limit the holding, limit the off side, limit the personal fouls and just be conscious of it in practice. That'll carry over to the game.
"You've just gotta be smart about it. A lot of the times, you're getting those penalties on reaction alone. You've just gotta be smart out there and be under control while you're playing."
There's still plenty of potential to if nothing else, get that first win, as evidenced by the bug passing game at Navy, followed by 263 yards rushing against Florida International. That potential might never get close to its peak if the Toppers can't rid themselves of the problems.
Wells said he believes there's still a good thing going, one that's a couple of mistakes from getting back to the win column.
"Schematically, we're gonna continue to do what we're doing," he said. "I think we're probably four or five plays away from really exploding. When I say exploding, I mean really having a good offense. We ran the ball well the last two weeks and that's actually three out of five weeks that we ran the ball well. We threw the ball well at Navy and we've gotta protect better so we can throw it better. That's not always the up front guys, but it is the up front guys, too. I'm not slighting that. We've just gotta continue to grow up and get better and better."
Check Out InsideHilltopperSports.com's insider's only look at WKU's Tuesday practice, including a full, in-depth injury report.
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