Hilltoppers head to Ball State looking for first win with Shanley at quarterback

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Davis Shanley (12) runs the ball in the fourth quarter during the NCAA football game between the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on August 31. CHRIS KOHLEY/HERALD

Matt Stahl

After a close loss to Louisville in which the Hilltoppers led for the majority of the game, WKU football will go back on the road on Saturday to take on the Ball State Cardinals (1-2).

With starting quarterback Drew Eckels still out with an upper body injury, redshirt freshman Davis Shanley will make his first career start after throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown against Louisville.

“I’m not really focusing on that,” Shanley said about getting the starting opportunity. “I’m just focusing on doing my job this week.


Shanley has seen action at Wisconsin and at U of L, but he said playing in those environments hasn’t quite prepared him for everything.

“You can never be prepared for every single situation because so many different teams run so many different defenses,” Shanley said. “You have to prepare as best you can and if they throw something that you’re not ready for you have to adjust.”

Shanley also spoke about how useful the experience of playing against Wisconsin and Louisville was to his development.  

“Very valuable,” Shanley said. “I’m very blessed, you know, playing those games, the situation I’ve been in and I’m taking that experience to heart and really evaluating myself and just trying to make my game better every single day.”

Besides Shanley’s continued development, another key aspect of the game against Ball State will be the continuing improvement of the run game. The Hilltoppers ran for 168 yards against Louisville, the most they’ve had under head coach Mike Sanford. Sanford said after the Louisville game that he was pleased with how much better the running backs and offensive line had looked.

Redshirt freshman running back Joshua Samuel spoke about how happy he was with the offensive line play against Louisville.

“They’ve been doing great, they’ve been improving every week,” Samuel said. “Week one against Wisconsin gave us a lot of motivation and confidence in the run game going from last year and like I said, we’re doing better and better every day.”

Samuel said that belief is one of the keys to continuing to better the run game.

“We gave coaches confidence in the run game,” Samuel said. “Against Ball State we’re probably gonna run the ball a lot and, you know, we’re going to go from there.”

The Hilltoppers will be slimmer at running back this week. Redshirt senior D’Andre Ferby was labeled as questionable by Sanford, and Samuel said earlier in the week that Ferby had surgery.

Sophomore offensive lineman Cole Spencer is also questionable, possibly adding another challenge for WKU.

Sanford spoke of the unique challenge posed by the Cardinal squad this Saturday.

“They’re a little dinged up it seems like at D-end, at least from what the reports that are out there, and safety as well but they’re playing well,” Sanford said. “You watch that Notre Dame film and they were very aggressive, attacking.”

On the defensive side of the ball senior cornerback DeAndre Farris spoke about what stuck out to him watching tape of Ball State’s previous games.

“They’re good at what they do,” Farris said. “They have a very good offense, you know, they do a lot of different things between run and pass and like I said, they’re sound at what they do.”

WKU at Ball State is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Indiana. The game will be available to watch on ESPN3 and will be on the radio on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network.

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