Pratt: Topper defense searching for discipline against Navy

Redshirt defensive lineman Tanner Reeves (59) tackles the Illini’s running back Donovonn Young (5) during the second half of WKU’s 34-42 loss against the University of Illinois Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. Mike Clark/HERALD

Elliott Pratt

Many of Head Coach Jeff Brohm’s coaching philosophies stemmed from lessons learned under former coach Bobby Petrino last year. You can see it on the field with the team’s playing style, as well as their practice routines. With Brohm in his first year as head coach, the motions of preparing for an opponent carry that same mantra.

Preparing for a team like Navy calls for the same protocol that won them the game last year.

Petrino told everyone, during his only spring at WKU, that he was working on a game plan for Navy back in March and April of 2013. Once last year’s contest with the Midshipmen sailed to Bowling Green, Petrino’s grand plan was unleashed.

The Hilltoppers dominated the nation’s top rushing attack, holding them to an embarrassing 86 yards on the ground. Once Andrew Jackson knocked quarterback Keenan Reynolds out of the game, Navy fell apart, and WKU won the game 19-7.

Well, there have been a few changes since then. The Hilltoppers’ defense isn’t dominant, Jackson is gone and Reynolds is back.

One thing hasn’t changed: Brohm’s preparation for a triple-option offense.

“We did that last year, and we continued the same plan,” Brohm said. “We worked on it numerous times in the spring, numerous times in fall camp. Considering the fact we play both Navy and Army this year, I think that will definitely benefit us. The fact that we’ve had an open week, hopefully, prepares us even more for this attack.”

The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Hilltoppers. With only a few more practices to prepare the weakest part of the defense for the second-best rushing offense in the country, the Hilltoppers need all the extra preparation they can get.

With a triple-option offense, the defense has three main areas to cover: the dive, the pitch and the quarterback. A lot of the success depends on stopping that three-part attack, which, last season, came from an experienced linebacking core: Jackson, reigning Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Xavius Boyd and Chuck Franks.

Senior cornerback Cam Thomas knows months of preparation for this offense can pay off, but only if the defense stays disciplined.

“When you’re facing Navy, Army or any of the armed forces, they do a good job of staying disciplined in their schemes,” Thomas said. “Even though they may have less talent than some athletic programs in the country, they are very sound in their techniques and their scheme. They know exactly what they want to do. Their timing is impeccable. You have to make sure you’re staying on your keys, and do your job.”

There’s no question that this coaching staff is capable of preparing a disciplined defense. That was evident in the last meeting between these two teams, but clearly there have been issues with this year’s team through three games.

Thomas has credited a lot of the recent struggles to lack of focus and fundamentals. That’s why having an extra week may have been just what the doctor ordered for this defense.

Discipline is developed through preparation, and Brohm’s pedigree doesn’t allow for faults like lack of game planning and discipline. If the Hilltoppers have indeed fixed the little things in their execution, discipline will follow suit on Saturday.