Players To Watch: WKU vs. Vanderbilt

Tyler Mansfield

WKU plays its second home game of the 2016 season this afternoon at Smith Stadium. As it may seem like it’s just another football game, that’s certainly not the case.

When the Hilltoppers and Commodores kickoff at 3:30 p.m. today, it’ll mark the first time a team from the Southeastern Conference has played on Feix Field.

With a big game comes big names to keep eyes on. Here are three players from each respected club that you might want to watch on this Saturday of college football:

1) Mike White – WKU Quarterback

Head Coach Jeff Brohm’s offensive pilot in redshirt junior Mike White is who you’ll see making a majority of the big passes today.

In just two outings as the Toppers’ starter, the University of South Florida transfer has completed 54 out of 86 passes (62.8 percent) for 920 yards and five touchdowns with just two interceptions. White, who threw a total of 11 touchdown passes combined in his 2013 and ’14 outings, has already a little less than half of that.

The quarterback currently ranks fourth nationally with 17.04 yards per completion, 13th in passing yards, 17th in passing efficiency (167.2), 42nd in completion percentage (62.8), 46th in completions per game (18) and 50th in passing touchdowns.

White has never played in a game against Vanderbilt, so we’ll see how it plays out.

2) Kyle Shurmur –– Vandy Quarterback

Sophomore Kyle Shurmur is Head Coach Derek Mason’s new starting quarterback this season. In last year’s matchup between the two programs in Nashville, WKU’s defense was defending former Commodore quarterback Johnny McCrary, who threw for just 217 yards and a touchdown along with two red-zone interceptions.

In today’s meeting, the Tops will be presented with Shurmur.

The Philadelphia, native is 40 out of 76 for 335 yards, two touchdowns and an interception entering this afternoon’s affair.

3) Nicholas Norris –– WKU Wide Receiver

The senior is one of WKU’s major scoring threats, as he’s already caught 20 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns this season.

In four years with the Toppers, the wideout has tallied 2,127 yards with 15 touchdowns off 138 catches. Currently, Norris ranks 17th nationally in receiving yards and 15th in receptions per game with 6.7.

Norris may have just tallied three catches for 19 yards in last year’s meeting against Vanderbilt, but he should be able to find many different ways to better those stats today.

4) Ralph Webb –– Vandy Running Back

The Commodores’ leading rusher in redshirt junior Ralph Webb is who Shurmur will be handing the ball to most of the afternoon.

Webb has ran for 377 yards and two touchdowns on 67 carries so far in 2016.

In last season’s match up against WKU, the runner took 18 hand-offs for a total of 70 yards and no scores.

5) Joel Iyiegbuniwe –– WKU Linebacker

In order to win games, you have to score more points than the other team. Yes, the offense puts most of the points on the scoreboard, but the defense keeps the opponent from being able to do it.

Redshirt sophomore Joel Iyiegbuniwe, the Toppers’ starting linebacker, has already recorded 16 tackles, with 11 of those being solo, on the year. Against the University of Alabama on Saturday, Sept. 10, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder made a career-high 10 stops while also adding a sack.

In order for WKU to escape with a win, Iyiegbuniwe will need to do his part on the defensive side of things for defensive coordinator Nick Holt’s unit.

6) Zach Cunningham –– Vandy Linebacker

Although Vanderbilt is known for its outstanding defense, one of its main forces is redshirt junior linebacker Zach Cunningham.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker leads his Commodores in tackles with 29 total, 18 of those being unassisted. In his last outing, Cunningham recorded seven solo tackles in Vanderbilt’s loss at Georgia Tech University last Saturday.

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMansfield.