Football Notebook: Tops buying into playoff mentality

Defensive back Branden Leston elevates over a UTSA wide receiver to intercept a pass during Saturday’s game at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Nick Wagner/HERALD

For the fourth-straight season, WKU has positioned itself in place for the postseason.

Saturday’s 45-7 rout of UTSA marked the third-straight win for the Hilltoppers (6-5, 3-4 C-USA) and the fourth-consecutive season the team has reached bowl eligibility – but WKU has only been invited to the postseason once in the past three years.

It’s much of the reason why WKU made the jump to Conference USA, which offers five guaranteed bowl games for its members, whereas the Sun Belt Conference only promises two.

“All of us think about it in the back of our head, but we don’t really talk about it,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “We’ve definitely been in the playoff mentality. Our guys have responded and they’ve looked forward to it. Each week the competition gets better. They’re stepping their level of play up.”

Doughty continues to impress

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty has put up numbers this season that have yielded several broken records, and he kept the ball rolling in Saturday’s 45-7 win over UTSA.

Doughty completed 26 of his 35 pass attempts for 346 yards and five touchdowns. He ended his 2014 home schedule throwing for 2,107 yards, 24 touchdowns and zero turnovers in six home games while completing 74.6 percent of his passes.

The redshirt senior also moved into second-place all-time on the WKU career touchdown pass list with a 13-yard lob pass for a touchdown to junior receiver Jared Dangerfield in the second quarter. He needs just one to tie the all-time record of 51 set by Kawaun Jakes.

“If we take care of the football we’ll have a chance to win in the fourth quarter,” Brohm said. “We’ve definitely done a tremendous job of that. Brandon’s stats at home are off the charts. I’ve never really heard of that before. He’s done a tremendous job, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

WKU defense ever improving

For the past three weeks, the Hilltoppers have been in playoff mode. The unit that’s most exemplified that role thus far is arguably the defense.

The defense has allowed a new season-low in yards allowed each week of its three-game win streak, which includes a low of 234 UTSA yards allowed on Saturday in the team’s 45-7 Senior Day win. The Hilltoppers limited the Roadrunners to three-of-16 on third and fourth down.

The Hilltoppers shutout the Roadrunners through three quarters and their first-half shutout marked the first since Nov. 23, 2013 against Texas State.

According to redshirt sophomore safety Branden Leston, who picked off UTSA quarterback Austin Robinson in the third quarter of Saturday’s win, said the defense is meshing at the right time.

“We’re all starting to gel together,” Leston said. “Coach Holt’s calling some great play calls, and we’re just gelling together as a defense.”