Pratt: Tops plan to carry out a Super Bowl winner’s message at Illinois

Junior running back Leon Allen runs 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

Head Coach Jeff Brohm got quite a few text messages after his first win as a head coach, but one of them stood out more than the others.

Former New York Giants Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms sent Brohm a message very similar to the one he will relay to his team this week heading into Illinois.

 “He basically said, ‘You know, Bill Parcells used to tell us, let’s not be a one-game wonder. Let’s keep it rolling,’” Brohm said. “Sometimes you can win a big game and feel good about yourself and think that you’re ready for the next one, but really you’re not.”

WKU knows all too much about this.

Everybody was all smiles – heck, Bobby Petrino even smiled once – when WKU beat up on Kentucky last year.

Then remember the next week when the Hilltoppers committed five turnovers in six plays? Then a week later they laid a goose egg at South Alabama.

Fast forward to today: WKU is in prime position to do something they haven’t done since 2005 – start the season 2-0.

 Even a “let down” from the Toppers’ home opener may be enough to pull out a win. Those performances only come around once in a while, so if they come out and underperform to even their own expectations it still may be good enough to win.

 The reality of this circumstance is that WKU – barring another wild five turnovers in six plays skit – could go on the road and win this game that was essentially put on the schedule for the Fighting Illini to win.

 But what we see now are two programs heading in different directions. Illinois trailed at home to Youngstown State, an FCS team from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Quarterback Wes Lunt led them back with a three touchdown fourth quarter to win it, but that, too, was supposed to be a game bought as an easy win.

 Illinois isn’t necessarily the cream of the crop of the Big Ten, either. Tim Beckman, in his third season, is bringing the program up, by the record at least – 2-10 in his first year, 4-8 last season. In each of the past three seasons, they’ve been last or next to last in the conference standings.

 WKU has all the confidence they need to handle business in Champaign, Illinois. They did it against Kentucky for two straight years and they just might add a win from another power five conference on Saturday.

 Coaches often say that they learn the most about their team during the week between their first and second game of the year. So, obviously, there needs to be a change in preparation this week if they don’t want to duplicate the debacle of week two and three last season.

 The key to avoiding being a one-game wonder is carrying over a successful offense against Bowling Green into 60 minutes versus Illinois.

 “That’s what we preached in the first game, ‘Hey, do your job, stick to the plan, be consistent.’ We talked about the most consistent team for four quarters wins,” Offensive Coordinator Tyson Helton said. “There’s going to be highs and lows. There’s going to be good things that happen and bad things that happen, but at the end of the day, the most consistent team will win. If we can just stay on the course, don’t turn the ball over, we’ll be just fine.”

 The difference this time is WKU is exposed. Illinois knows what to expect; Bowling Green didn’t. But Brohm and company have worked on writing this script for several months. Being prepared is natural to them.

 “They’re going to be very prepared for it and we’re going to have to find a way to win on both sides of the ball, so it’s definitely a critical game,” Brohm said.

 The game is critical because a 2-0 to start the season gives more hope. The wonder of a record-setting week one start lasts only a week. If WKU does everything right, the text message advice of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback just might pay off.