WKU hopes bye week intensity pays off

Head Coach Jeff Brohm watches quarterback Brandon Doughty in warmups before the WKU vs Middle Tennessee State University game on Sept. 13, 2014. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Elliott Pratt

Sometimes you have to look at the man in the mirror to make a change.

I never thought I would find myself quoting the late, great, philosopher Michael Joseph Jackson – it’s not really my style – but it’s a perfect correlation to what this WKU football team is doing after its final bye week, heading into a seven-week stretch of football.

The Hilltoppers sit at 2-3 overall and 0-2 in Conference USA. If they manage to topple Florida Atlantic this weekend, it will be the first time since 2009 that the Hilltoppers have staved off an 0-3 start to conference play.

Head Coach Jeff Brohm said to make that change, they had to take a look at themselves.

“I think this past week we really tried to practice hard, tried to look at ourselves, individually, as coaches on both sides of the ball, on special teams and get better as a team first and increase the completion in practice,” Brohm said. “I think that was productive. So, hopefully, this week we’ll have a good week of practice, concentrate more on Florida Atlantic and get ready to play.”

It’s been a bit of a different atmosphere for the football program. The team spent part of the week paying respect to the late Jimmy Feix, but they also veered away from the script of a typical practice.

They treated last Tuesday’s practice just like a game – game day uniforms and all. Brohm said his team is a good practice squad, but he’s searching for answers when there’s four quarters to play. So, they turned it up a notch.

“We increased the competition this week in practice,” Brohm said. “We somewhat of a controlled pattern, we had a long, non-scripted scrimmage where guys were asked to make plays and find ways to win.”

The record speaks for itself. WKU has had a problem finishing games. In each of their three losses, the Hilltoppers held a 10-point lead, only to give it up in a second half collapse. They’ve lost those three games by a combined 14 points. They’re 0-2 in the conference, but there’s no need for panic.

“You have to embrace adversity as a football team,” senior offensive lineman Cameron Clemmons said. “As leaders, we have to make sure we stick to the process. We’ll be fine. You know a lot of people worry because we’ve lost three football games, but we have seven left. We could easily be 5-0 right now, but that’s just how it goes. I’m looking forward to these next seven games.”

Six of the next seven games are conference matchups with a home game against Army, which means there’s still a lot of football to play.

But with a 2-3 record, WKU has to get the ball rolling with FAU. There has to be a new identity and a change that starts from within.

“We want our players to understand that the difference is so small between winning and losing,” Brohm said. “You really have to do everything within your power to win. When you don’t, it has to tick you off and make you mad. It’s got to make you want to find ways to, individually, get better and then as a unit and as a team get better.”

Following WKU’s road matchup against FAU, the team will play four of its remaining six games at home, beginning with Old Dominion on Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.