Avoiding complacency key for Tops against FAU

Brandon Doughty calls plays to his team at the WKU vs Illinois game. WKU is leading at halftime 17-14 against Illinois on Saturday Sept. 06, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. Jeff Brown/HERALD

Kyle Williams

Searching for its first Conference USA victory, WKU football will travel to Florida Atlantic for a league matchup with the Owls on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT in Boca Raton, Florida — a place that’s relatively familiar to several Hilltoppers.

Twenty-nine current players derive from the Sunshine State, and Head Coach Jeff Brohm spent the 2009 season serving as the Owls’ quarterbacks coach.

The fact that several Hilltoppers called Florida home at one time or another doesn’t mean they can afford to get too comfortable.

Despite a first half that yielded 370 total yards and a 27-14 halftime lead, the Hilltoppers totaled just 133 yards and gave up 28 points in the second en route to a 42-29 loss to the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Oct. 4 in Smith Stadium.

WKU has had its second bye week of the season to let that loss sink in. Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty said the Hilltoppers are looking to avoid self-satisfaction until they claim their elusive league victory.

“We have to be more consistent,” Doughty said. “We got a little complacent in that first half (against UAB). I thought we thought we were just going to go out there and roll over them, and we didn’t. That’s on us as a team.”

The Owls, also coming off a bye week, are looking to right the ship following a 38-10 loss to Florida International on Oct. 2 in Miami, Florida. FAU comes into its matchup with the Hilltoppers giving up 35.3 points while only managing to score 21.2 per game.

However, those numbers appear to be skewed. With the exception of a 55-7 loss to No. 19 Nebraska and a 41-0 loss to No. 7 Alabama, the Owls are scoring 37.3 points per game and giving up just 21.8.

Dual-threat redshirt junior quarterback Jaquez Johnson and all-purpose menace senior Lucky Whitehead lead the Owls on offense. Johnson has a total of 10 touchdowns on the year — seven passing and three rushing. However, the Owls are completing just 37.2 percent of their third downs.

Whitehead leads the C-USA and ranks No. 11 nationally in all-purpose yards with 977. Whitehead has caught 36 receptions for 311 yards and rushed 14 times for 80 yards in addition to his 586 punt and kick return yards.

Seniors Damian Parms and Andrae Kirk lead a FAU defense that has given up 476.3 yards of total offense per game and 25 out of 30 scores inside the red zone. Parms and Kirk rank No. 2 and No. 5 in the C-USA, respectively, in tackles per game with 9.2 and 8.

“They’re a young team on defense. They have guys that are seniors, but they haven’t played,” Doughty said. “Those guys hustle to the ball, they move around, they’re big guys. They’re big weight room guys. Their defensive backs really cover good. They have a good scheme going in. They’re going to try to challenge us.”

Despite two bye weeks through the team’s first five games of the schedule, WKU still ranks within the top 10 nationally in four major offensive categories — No. 2 in passing offense (433 yards per game), No. 3 in total offense and third down completion percentage (576 yards per game and 53.8 percent, respectively) and No. 9 in scoring offense (43 points per game).

“The offense speaks for itself,” FAU Head Coach Charlie Partridge said in regards to this weekend’s game. “…I know Brandon (Doughty) will be extremely excited. I remember Brandon from high school, evaluated him very hard. …I’m not surprised at all by his performance and the way he spreads the ball around.”

“When you see a team that has six players with over 18 catches, that’s a lot of confidence in all your skills players. Their running back Leon Allen, he’s big, he’s powerful. He’s a good football player as well. So it’s a powerful offense, and I’m not surprised, with coach (Jeff) Brohm’s background, what he’s got going there.”

Having spent two weeks reminiscing on their recent loss and their season thus far, the Hilltoppers aren’t prepared to settle for anything less than a league victory on Saturday.

“We looked at ourselves in the mirror and figured out what our issues were,” redshirt senior receiver Willie McNeal said. “…Guys can’t accept things like that. Can’t accept a loss. We’re tired of having a, ‘Oh, we let one slip,’ (mentality).”