REECER’S PIECE: Defense must improve for Hilltoppers

John Reecer is the sports editor of the College Heights Herald during the spring 2016 semester.

John Reecer

In just a matter of weeks the WKU football team has had quite the fall.

The team went from giving up just one offensive touchdown against the defending National Champions in the first half, to giving up a combined 86 points in losses against Louisiana Tech University and Vanderbilt University.

To make matters worse, the combined records of those two teams are now 5-7. Not exactly the type of teams you want to be giving up 43 points a game to.

While the significant injuries of senior defensive back Marcus Ward and redshirt junior linebacker T.J. McCollum are reasons for this unfortunate fall, the play of the Hilltopper defense as a whole has been flat-out embarrassing.

Six games into the season, WKU’s defense ranks 74 out of 128 teams in opponent yards per game as the Toppers are allowing 427.6 yards per game.

Unless you have a quarterback like Brandon Doughty behind center on offense, you don’t deserve to be a winning football team with a defense like that.

The problems the defense are facing this season deal with the one aspect of the game which has plagued them for the past five to six years: passing defense.

Out of the 128 teams in NCAA FBS football this year, the Toppers rank 124th in passing defense as they have given up 321.2 yards per game through the air.

WKU plays Middle Tennessee State University in their next game and the Blue Raiders rank 14th nationally in passing offense, so that should be a fun one for the Topper defense.

With defensive numbers that bad, the question of just how good this WKU team actually is needs to be asked.

This team has simply only beaten bad teams this year in Rice University, Miami (Ohio) and Houston Baptist University, and they have lost to below average teams in Vanderbilt and Louisiana Tech.

If the Toppers want to have another interesting bowl match-up in December, then things have to change right now.

A loss against the Blue Raiders this Saturday will end the Toppers’ chance at being in the Conference USA Championship game before mid-October, and who knows how the team will react to a demoralizing loss like that.

The bad news is unless WKU’s secondary can drastically turn things around in just one week of practice, then a big loss on the road in Murfressboro, Tennessee, could be what’s in store.

However, the good news is if the Topper defense can make just enough big plays against the Blue Raiders, the offense lead by redshirt junior quarterback Mike White has more than enough firepower to lead WKU to the victory.

With a defensive problem like the one WKU has, it may actually be better if the Toppers don’t take this season one game at a time and start thinking about the season as a whole.

This defense needs to develop a sense of urgency quickly as the success WKU will experience at the end of this season depends on their improvement from this point forward.

If they don’t develop this sense of urgency, then expect multiple MTSU passing touchdowns for over 50 yards on Saturday.

My instincts tell me that with Head Coach Jeff Brohm at the helm, the Toppers will turn things around and finish this season off with a record like 8-5 or 9-4.

However, if there is little improvement in this Topper defense from this point forward, I would be surprised if this team even makes it to another bowl game.

Reporter John Reecer can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @Reece_12_Falcon.