Views from the Bottom of the Hill: Time to talk about the play calling

WKU head coach Tyson Helton oversees a practice on Sep. 1, 2020.

Kaden Gaylord

For most of the 2020 football season, the players have been the ones under the microscope and in the hot seat for the level of play on the field. It’s not unwarranted criticism, but now it’s time to question the coaching staff and the play calling.

There’s only been one time this season where I have seen the play calling get criticized, and that was in the Liberty game earlier this season.

WKU received the ball after the Flames scored on their previous drive to go up 30-17. WKU came out on its ensuing drive and ran the ball four straight plays. It’s not like they were on multiple first downs either; they were all before the Hilltoppers could even get their first first down of the series.

The yardage totals for each of the four plays were a loss of six yards, a gain of six yards back to the line of scrimmage, a gain of eight yards and then on fourth down a run of nine yards.

Even fans near the top of the press box were all confused on why the ball was being put on the ground with six minutes left in the game being down by two touchdowns.

Ever since that last drive against Liberty, play calling has also been a huge question mark.

In the Hilltoppers last victory against Chattanooga, they established the run game for the first of a few times throughout this season with Gaej Walker running for 51 yards on his first three carries. Instead of running downfield for the rest of the series, they got cute and tried to stretch the field running a jet sweep which hasn’t worked well at all this season.

This wasn’t the only time it happened that game either. As late in the second quarter they tried to run a jet sweep pass that failed completely, and on the ensuing play WKU fumbled not putting up points before halftime. Both times these types of plays happened were all in the redzone and either ended in field goals or no points at all.

All that led us to the past two games. WKU has run the ball well in the games against BYU and most recently Florida-Atlantic, having rushed for 156 yards and 94 yards respectively.

WKU hasn’t been able to capitalize on its run game as the passing game hasn’t fared well either. As much blame as people want to put on the quarterbacks, it doesn’t all go on them.

We know Kevaris Thomas has a great arm, but what good does that do if he goes 12-for-17 for only 59 yards against Chattanooga? What good will Tyrrell Pigrome be if he’s throwing five yard hitches, five yard outs and comeback routes all game long?

Yes, WKU lost its top two receivers at the beginning of the year to the transfer portal, but we were told the receiving core has a lot of depth and it hasn’t translated on the field.

“I think we had what close to 20 completions and you know threw for somewhere around that 110 yard range, you know you got a — you’re not going to win football games throwing the ball like that,” offensive Coordinator Bryan Ellis said last Wednesday. “So we got to create some more explosive plays. We got to, when we have those opportunities we have to hit them.”

Well where are the explosive plays? There is no reason WKU should be throwing the ball 40 times against FAU and only ending with 163 passing yards.

“At the end of the day we have to score,” head coach Tyson Helton said. “It’s hard to look positively on things when we’re losing a football game 10-6.”

He’s right.

Especially with the defense stepping up as of late, the offense having these long drives and either ending in field goals or not ending in points at all is unacceptable. There is no reason for this team who has returned most of its core to be struggling like this, and there needs to be accountability taken on all parts including the play calling and coaching staff.

Men’s basketball beat reporter & columnist Kaden Gaylord can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.