Tops’ new approach provides optimism

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty (12) drops back for a pass during the third quarter of WKU’s Oct. 25 game against Old Dominion. Doughty went 23 of 26 for 371 yards and five touchdowns, leading WKU to a 66-51 victory over the Monarchs. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Elliott Pratt

A change in mindset may have been all WKU needed to turn things around.

And as a result of internally raising the stakes and approaching the game differently, that outcome turns around.

One wouldn’t typically consider a 4-5 team a force to be reckoned with. But when that 4-5 team has changed its mentality to playoff mode, backed with confidence, you better watch out.

It’s do or die. Now or never. Win or stay home.

WKU’s jump to Conference USA pretty much ensures its way into the postseason as long as it reaches the six-win minimum requirement.

Right after they dropped a 59-10 dud at LA Tech to fall to 3-5, that goal looked like it may have to wait another year again.

Then we saw a whole new team storm back and win Homecoming with a different confidence that provides optimism for the remainder of the season.

“We always talk about how we have to play with confidence, we have to play with swagger, and even when things aren’t going well, you’ve got to have it,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said after Saturday’s 35-27 win over UTEP. “You can’t go on the field doubting anything, you can’t go on the field expecting the worst to happen. You have to plan to make the best happen.”

There have been times this team had confidence, but now equality has set in. The Hilltopper offense set its own tone of swagger once they put up 59 points in the season opener. But the defense has lacked consistency, and it’s created an obvious separation on both sides of the ball.

That’s not the case for this week’s preparation against Army. Wonderful Terry’s game changing pick-6 was the defense’s nation leading fifth touchdown of the season and its fourth-quarter shutout was the second straight at home. When both sides perform well, it adds a whole new attitude to preparation.

“Yeah, it’s a different attitude,” junior running back Leon Allen said. “Everybody attacks the field. When it’s time to practice, everybody attacks it like a game. Everybody’s out there with juice. When I go out there to work hard, it feeds all through the backfield, and everybody does.”

Fortunately for the Tops, these next two games that could get them into that post-season eligibility are very winnable, and not many 4-5 teams can say that.

Army (3-6) hasn’t won a road game this season and is 1-5 on the year when opposing teams have passed for 200 yards or more.

Add WKU’s success defensively in stopping the triple-option to that recipe and I don’t think there’s any way this team lets this one get away.

Looking ahead, WKU closes out its home schedule against UTSA (2-7, 1-4 C-USA), and it’s yet another very winnable game. The Roadrunners aren’t necessarily going to face a tough test tonight either against Southern Miss.

 Obviously, the Hilltoppers — or any 4-5 squad for that matter — are in no position to take any opponent lightly. But taking a look at the bigger picture of the upcoming schedule has to make WKU feel good about its chances in advancing to the reward that comes with succeeding in the playoffs.