Tops looking to maintain momentum against Army

 Redshirt senior wide receiver Joel German takes a 50-yard reception for a touchdown against the UTEP Miners during the Homecoming game on Nov. 8. Harrison Hill/HERALD

Kyle Williams

Coming off its first Homecoming victory in three years, WKU football will look to retain momentum on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Smith Stadium as the Hilltoppers meet Army in the second matchup with the Black Knights.

The Hilltoppers (4-5, 2-4 Conference USA) used a two-yard game-winning touchdown from former All-American running back Antonio Andrews to secure a 21-17 victory over the Black Knights (3-6) in West Point, New York last season.

Much like a season ago, the Black Knights enter the matchup with the Hilltoppers as one of the nation’s leaders in rushing at 298.3 yards per game, good for fifth in the country.

It’s not the first time this season that the Hilltoppers have been pitted against one of the nation’s toughest triple-option attacks. WKU escaped Navy with a 36-27 victory on Sept. 27 despite allowing 412 rushing yards.

WKU limited Army and Navy, both top-ranked rushing offenses last season, to 277 and 86 yards on the ground, respectively.

“We know they’re going to have answers to what we’ve done in the past to stop it,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “So we have to have a good plan ready. We definitely have to contain their offense and try to get them off the field.”

Senior running back Larry Dixon and senior quarterback Angel Santiago head Army’s triple-option attack with a combined 1,412 rushing yards in nine games this season. Including Dixon and Santiago, six Black Knights rush for at least 26.9 rushing yards per game.

Army enters the matchup with the country’s 93rd-ranked total offense, averaging 367.1 yards per game while the defense gives up 429.1 yards per game, good for 90th in the country.

According to senior linebacker Terran Williams, the Hilltoppers are one step ahead in regards to defending the triple-option – now it’s up to the team to prove it.

“We practice like it’s do or die, now we just have to play like it’s do or die,” Williams said. “We can’t take anything for granted now. It’s the playoff season for us.”

Much like the WKU defense, the offense regained some swagger in its 35-27 Homecoming victory over UTEP by way of 358 total yards and zero turnovers. In the team’s previous bout at Louisiana Tech, the Hilltoppers gained 297 yards and committed a total of five turnovers.

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty was the victim of LA Tech’s creative blitzing schemes and tossed four interceptions but has since responded with 324 yards passing and three touchdowns against UTEP.

Doughty has compiled totals of 1,583 yards, 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions in four home games this season.

Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Forrest Lamp said following the Hilltoppers’ Tuesday practice that Army’s blitzing schemes are relative to LA Tech’s, so protecting Doughty will be key on Saturday.

“Army plays a lot of 30-front, which LA Tech did, but they did some crazy stuff,” Lamp said. “They do blitz quite often, but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen after playing LA Tech and this last game (against UTEP).”

Another important aspect for the Hilltoppers will be re-establishing the run game. WKU totaled just 34 yards on the ground against UTEP despite averaging 136.4 rushing yards per game. When asked how the Hilltoppers’ backs will turn that around, junior running back Leon Allen said persistence is key.

“Just stay with it,” Allen said. “Work on it hard throughout the week of practice. Getting up on the blocks and finishing through the runs and attacking the holes just like in the game.”