One week after dropping their home opener against the US Naval Academy on a tempestuous evening at Houchens-Smith Stadium, the WKU football team looks to regroup and capture their first win of the 2011 season as their first win at home in almost three years.
While many people expect the Toppers to run away with an easy victory over an inferior FCS opponent, do not let anyone fool you: the Indiana State Sycamores will come to Bowling Green ready to play.
"I think our team will match up well against anyone, anyone we play," said WKU head coach Willie Taggart. "They are a good football team. They have a really good quarterback, good receivers and a tight end. They are not the Indiana State of the past. They are totally different football club, and they have some really good athletes on their football team."
The last time the team played an FCS opponent, fans were left disappointed as they dropped a "sure win" to Central Arkansas 28-7 back in 2009. On that evening the Toppers came out flat and got what they deserved. If the current team wants to avoid the fate of the 2009 squad, they must come ready to play and not take for granted a "weaker" opponent.
On that evening back in 2009, fans saw a changing of the guard as then little known freshmen quarterback Kawaun Jakes take over as the WKU starting quarterback position. Jakes has started every game since then; however, Jakes was pulled against Navy, which gave redshirt freshmen Brandon Doughty a chance to show his coaches and fans what he could do. Since that time there has been a large cry from Topper fans to let Doughty lead the offense and move Jakes elsewhere.
In his weekly press conference, Taggart had a lot to say about his team's quarterback situation.
"The quarterback position is just like any other position, too," said Taggart. "We are going to play the guy who practiced the best. We are not just going to throw a guy in there because you guys want him in. We are going to put guys in that are going to help our football team win. Who I feel is going to help our football team win. We watch film, move around so whoever we feel like gives us the best chance; we'll put him in and let him go."
Whoever the team decides to lead the offense, they will have to set-up and get the job done. Last week Jakes and Doughty combined for 19-33 passing for 153 yards and two interceptions. Last week also marked the fourth straight game that the WKU quarterbacks failed to throw a touchdown pass. Coincidentally, the Toppers have dropped all four of those contests.
One area of the WKU offense that looks to keep firing on all cylinders is the rushing game. Led by senior running back Bobby Rainey, the rushing offense has been the one bright spot on the offensive side of the ball, averaging 132.5 yards per game.
"It is good for us to have some consistency somewhere," said Taggart, "and he has given us some consistency in our offense. We just have to find some other guys to help him out. Bobby is just Bobby. He comes to work every day and gets it done. We just have to find some guys to help him out and our offense will take off."
Rainey will look to make school history as he tries to extend his 100-yard rushing streak to eight games. If he can do so, Bobby will tie former running back Antwan Floyd for the longest 100-yard streak in school history.
Consistency for Indiana State has come in the form of senior quarterback Ronnie Fouch. The University of Washington transfer has played well for Indiana State, completing 63.4% of his passes for 337 yards and two touchdown passes. With his accuracy and arm strength, the Toppers defense will have to rise to the challenge.
Fouch has a number of weapons in his arsenal. Wide receivers Justin Hilton and Alex Jones both have over 100 yards receiving on the year. With their catching abilities, Indiana State has the ability to stretch the WKU secondary. If that happens, Indiana State can hand the ball off to one of two solid running backs. Senior fullback Brock Lough has totaled 130 yards and three touchdowns on the season while junior Shakir Bell has added 91 yards.
If the defense wants to stop the Sycamore offense, they must continue to apply pressure as they have done the past two weeks. Led by sophomore linebacker Andrew Jackson and senior defensive lineman Jared Clendenin, the defense currently sits at third in the conference in total defense giving up an average of 350 yards per game. On paper the teams are set for a good matchup as the Indiana State offense averages a total of 313 yards per game.
In the end, there is no reason the Toppers should not win this game. While they cannot overlook Indiana State, the WKU defense has proved that it can and will lead the team to victories this season, and Saturday presents a prime opportunity for the team to do so. To make this chance a certainty the offense must make plays and provide some support for the defense.