Pratt: 5 things to watch for in WKU’s Conference USA home opener

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty passes the ball during the first half of WKU’s game against Bowling Green State Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, at Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Mike Clark/HERALD

Elliott Pratt

Here’s five things to watch for today when WKU hosts Alabama-Birmingham for its first Conference USA home game.

Kickoff is at 6 p.m., and broadcasting information can be found here:

1.)    Brandon Doughty – I thought that Brandon Doughty couldn’t possibly live up to his performance from the season opener against Bowling Green. He’s done just that plus some. Today, all he needs is one touchdown pass to surpass his season total of 14 last year. He already has 1,846 passing yards on the season and is averaging 461.5 per game. I don’t see any signs of him slowing down today.

2.)    WKU run game – Sure, Doughty is still going to put up crazy numbers, but don’t sleep on WKU’s run game. I wrote earlier this week that WKU’s rushing attack is on the verge of breaking out and dominating one game. It’s been pretty productive so far, but it’s also been overshadowed by Doughty’s arm. Last week against Navy, the Hilltoppers rushed for a season high 164 yards and junior running back Leon Allen was more efficient with an average of six yards per carry. When Allen doesn’t have to carry the load on his own, the run game is more productive. Look for redshirt sophomore Anthony “Ace” Wales to split more carries with Allen today, which in turn, should open up more opportunities in the run game.

3.)    Turnovers – The deciding factor in UAB’s loss last week to FIU was turnovers. Quarterbacks Cody Clements and Jeremiah Briscoe were each intercepted twice and the Blazers lost two fumbles in their 34-20 loss to the Panthers. WKU’s defense has produced just five turnovers this season. Cornerback Wonderful Terry has two touchdowns on the year with a strip-fumble at Illinois returned for a touchdown and his game-sealing interception at Navy last week.

4.)    Blazer big play potential – WKU’s defense still needs work. This is a unit that has allowed nearly 500 yards (498.2) of offense and 37.5 points per game. When UAB played Mississippi State on Sept. 6, the Blazers scored on touchdown passes of 88, 81 and 75 yards, meaning that even against a top Southeastern Conference defense, the Blazers have potential to punish a defense if caught off its assignments.

5.)    Attendance – It’s fall break, which means there’s going to be some students not at the game that normally would be. However, I said the same thing about having a game on a Friday night against Bowling Green and 17,215 showed up. It’s the first home game in just over a month and it’s the Conference USA home opener for WKU, which is a monumental moment for this university. I hope students are there to share it.

I’ll see you at the game. 

PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 45, Alabama-Birmingham 31