Following the Hilltoppers’ 38-21 loss to Louisville in front of a Nissan Stadium crowd just barely bigger than what could’ve fit in Houchens-Smith Stadium, head coach Tyson Helton now has some big decisions to make going into the bye week.
The first and foremost problem will be finding a new quarterback to replace the injured Steven Duncan. Duncan didn’t have his worst game against Louisville, managing to not throw any interceptions, though he did have a fumble the Cardinals took to the house to further demoralize the Hilltoppers.
Duncan is an interesting case, as he looked like the ideal candidate for the offense Helton claimed he wanted to run when he discussed his plans in the spring. Duncan has a cannon of an arm, and if the team were throwing nonstop deep balls, he would fit in perfectly.
However, that’s not the offense the team has been running, and it has often seemed the Hilltoppers could benefit from someone with more accuracy, especially on the run, where Duncan is absolutely atrocious.
With Duncan now injured, Helton has three viable options in Ty Storey, Davis Shanley and Kevaris Thomas.
While calling for Duncan to be pulled was a popular stance even before his injury, each of these quarterbacks has their own set of issues, which has caused them to stay on the bench thus far.
Starting with Storey, he looked awful in the spring game, throwing two interceptions. He also was unable to retain the starting job at Arkansas, not one of the powerhouse schools of the SEC.
However, he is the most experienced of the bunch, and if he can find a way to help the team finish drives — something it struggled mightily with in the Louisville game — he’ll get the job.
Davis Shanley was a mixed bag last season. At times he looked solid if unspectacular, and he is certainly more accurate, agile and better at throwing on the run than Duncan.
His arm leaves a lot to be desired, but the team hasn’t been living and dying by the deep ball as much as was expected, so that flaw might not matter as much as previously thought.
Kevaris Thomas is the wildcard in the race. He boasts incredible physical attributes and can throw the ball from PFT to Hilligans. However, when he throws the ball, it doesn’t usually end up anywhere near the receiver it was intended for.
Whoever wins the race will have their work cut out for them. As stated earlier, other than a few nice plays, including a long touchdown by freshman Joshua Simon, the offense looked terrible in the Louisville game.
Even the most reliable players on the team looked off, including Lucky Jackson, who had arguably the worst game of his WKU career.
Helton will have to use the bye week to fix the issues, because if the incompetence continues, the season is doomed. WKU’s defense has looked good, but it won’t be able to carry the load by itself.
This is a crucial moment in Helton’s young tenure. The quarterback decision will carry consequences, as the players who aren’t picked might opt to find a program with a starting spot for them.
Fortunately for Helton, he has some time to decide.
Sports Columnist and News Editor Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected] Follow Matt on Twitter @mattstahl97.