Hilltoppers look to stop skid against FAU

Freshman quarterback Davis Shanley gets ready to pass the ball during WKU’s football game against Louisville on Saturday. WKU lost the game 20-17.

Matt Stahl

After another loss dropped the WKU football team to 1-8 on the season, the Hilltoppers will make an attempt to rebound on Saturday, as they go up against a Florida Atlantic team that is flying high after cruising to victory against Florida International.

Team captain and redshirt junior linebacker Ben Holt spoke about whether it’s difficult to maintain morale in the locker room with the season going poorly.

“Obviously no one likes to lose,” Holt said. “But the whole team loves to play football so it’s not that hard for us.”

After Middle Tennessee State running back Chaton Mobley torched the Hilltoppers for 198 rushing yards last week, Holt was blunt about what WKU needs to do better to stop the run.

“We just need to tackle better,” Holt said.

FAU’s offense will be led by junior running back Devin Singletary, possibly the best player in Conference USA. He leads the conference in rushing yards per game and scoring.

“They just run a lot of different run plays,” Holt said. “They just do it out of a lot of different looks so it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be extremely fun for the linebackers. We’ve been practicing our fits so it’s going to be a fun game.”

Offensively, the Hilltoppers will have to make a decision at quarterback between redshirt freshman Davis Shanley and redshirt sophomore Steven Duncan, who played very well at the end of the MTSU game after starter Drew Eckels was injured. Whoever starts will have to reckon with a banged up receiving core after redshirt sophomore Jacquez Sloan, the team’s leading receiver, went down with an injury at MTSU.

“I always feel the need to step up,” redshirt sophomore receiver Jahcour Pearson said. “I feel like all the receivers feel like that every week, that we just got to go out there and make plays when our name is called.”

Pearson, who has 10 catches for 134 yards on the season, also spoke of how the team stays confident in a losing year.

“It’s never hard to maintain confidence if you’ve got confidence,” Pearson said. “I always feel confident out there on the field and I know that things are going to come together.”

WKU head coach Mike Sanford shared Pearson’s optimism despite the lack of positive results thus far.

“Excited to go down there to Boca Raton,” Sanford said. “It’s an area where we recruit, we’ve got a lot of players on our team from that area. They’re playing obviously at a very high level after last week’s convincing victory.”

Sanford said that his keys to the game for WKU are stopping the run and staying on the field offensively. He also talked about the struggles that the team has had trying to stay healthy at the quarterback position.

“They’ve never really experienced anything like this at the position,” Sanford said. “It’s a lot of the factors are out of our control, out of the players control. There’s a lot of health factors.”

Kickoff at FAU will be at 4:00 p.m. and will be available to watch on Stadium live on Facebook.

Reporter Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mattstahl97.