Payback | WKU looks for revenge vs. La. Tech

WKU tight end Tyler Higbee (82) can’t get a hand on a pass as Vanderbilt University safety Jahmel McIntosh (27) provides cover during the second half of the Hilltoppers’ 14-12 win over Vanderbilt University Thursday at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

The WKU football team owns an interesting statistic. 

Going into this week, the Hilltoppers (1-0) own the sixth-longest FBS winning streak of six games. 

Their last loss came on Nov. 1, 2014, in the form of a 59-10 thumping at the hands of Louisiana Tech in Ruston. 

Now, after starting the season with a win over Vanderbilt on the road, WKU hosts the Bulldogs (1-0) for the season opening home game at Smith Stadium in search of revenge from a season ago.

“We’ve got a great challenge ahead of us; this is a very good football team. They beat us very badly last year, they’re very talented and they present us a lot of problems on offense,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. 

The offensive threats La. Tech present are no surprise. The Hilltoppers only allowed more points from one team last season in Marshall’s 66, and that game went into overtime. 

Yet no defense presented more trouble to WKU last season either. The Bulldogs held an offense that averaged over 40 points a game last season to an abysmal 10 by the Tops. 

“They like to get after the quarterback, make him feel uncomfortable and give you a lot of different looks,” Brohm said. “We have to really do our homework and have a good plan and put our players in a position to succeed, and hopefully they can go out and make plays.”

The Bulldogs come to town after a signature victory for the Hilltoppers. Last week, WKU became the first Conference USA team to defeat an SEC opponent since UCF’s win over Georgia in the 2010 Liberty Bowl. WKU is now 3-2 against the SEC since 2012 to go along with two wins over the University of Kentucky. 

Despite the victory, what was dubbed by many as “America’s most exciting offense” last season struggled to get going against Vanderbilt. 

WKU was shut out in the first half for the first time since 2013, and senior quarterback Brandon Doughty failed to impress.

Yet the WKU coaching staff didn’t seem worried about the senior’s struggles and stressed the importance of taking the season one game at a time.

“Well, I think he’s looking forward to it. You know, [La. Tech last season] was a game where he didn’t play up to par, but really none of us did. He took most of the blame when really it was all of our faults,” Brohm said of Doughty. “You know, I think he’s going to have to play tough … He’s got to be completely sharp, and this is a huge test for him and a huge test for our offense.”

La. Tech, who finished 2014 with a 7-1 conference record and placed first in the C-USA West division, is looking to start its season 2-0 after defeating its first opponent, Southern, 62-15. 

A large part of the Bulldogs’ success is due to their explosive spread offense. Led by University of Florida transfer Jeff Driskel, the Bulldogs tailed 558 yards of offense—including five touchdowns by Driskel—in their first outing.

Last season, La. Tech hung 59 points against the Hilltoppers, and it will look to rival the scoring production it had consistently last season. In one contest versus C-USA opponent Rice last season, the Bulldogs scored 76 points. 

But WKU is no stranger to offensive shootouts. Last season, the Hilltoppers played in six games where both teams scored more than 35 points.

WKU carries some momentum into week two and will look to continue to keep it going. The Hilltoppers are looking to start 2-0 for the first time since 2005 and will attempt to do so tonight at 7 p.m.

“Just coming off a big game like we had against Vanderbilt, you want to keep it going,” junior safety Marcus Ward said. “So we’ve got the momentum in a sense, but we know that this team is probably going to be the best team we’re going to play all year, so we have to come ready to play. Even though it’s only the second game, we got (sic) to be ready to play because we know they’re going to come ready and come prepared, so we’ve got to do the same.”