Toppers look to stay hot at Texas State

Elliott Pratt

The college football playoff may not begin until next year, but the Toppers have other plans in mind.

WKU (6-4, 2-3 Sun Belt Conference) has reached the six-win bowl eligibility threshold, but in a league where six of the eight schools could potentially earn postseason bowl spots, the Toppers know they hold their own destiny.

WKU should be well-rested after its first full bye week, which followed back-to-back wins. With two games remaining on the schedule, coach Bobby Petrino is referring to this last part of the season as the team’s playoff.

Junior quarterback Brndon Doughty said he’s working to make sure WKU doesn’t end up 7-5 nd out of the bowl picture, like in 2011.

“We need two wins to get us any chance to a bowl,” junior quarterback Brandon Doughty said. “That’s our mentality. From what’s happened in the past and how we got snubbed two years ago, we’re treating every game as a must-win. It’s an important game because it’s the next one.”

WKU first round in their inner playoff comes Texas State and one of the top defenses in the Sun Belt.

The Bobcats hold the conference’s best scoring defense by only allowing an average of 24 points per game, and is second to WKU in yards allowed per game (382). But the turnover comparison could either be a thorn in WKU’s side, or an opportunity for the Toppers to show they’re over the turnover bug.

Texas State ranks No. 20 nationally in turnover margin, good for first place in the Sun Belt, and it’s no secret that turnovers have been the biggest difference between winning and losing for WKU.

“We’ve had some losses this year and a lot of losses we’ve had a lot of turnovers,” offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm said. “It’s been critical that we improve upon that. We’ve gotten better at it. We have to continue to harp on it, continue to work on it and realize the importance of it.

“In a game you only get so many drives, you can’t give them the ball. This team can run the ball and control it, so we have to take care of it, have long-sustained drives, try and get big plays at times, but we can’t give them the ball at all.”

To sustain those long drives, WKU will have to continue to pound the ball on the ground, but the Bobcats have proven this season that they can challenge the run game better than anyone.

Texas State has only allowed 128 yards per game on the ground, but the Bobcats were exposed last Saturday in their 31-28 loss at Arkansas State by giving up 328 yards rushing.

Junior tight end Mitchell Henry knows the Toppers will have to play to its strengths with senior running back Antonio Andrews in the backfield, but they’ll have to continue to stay balanced.

“We’re not going to be able to sit there and throw the ball the whole game,” Henry said. “We’re going to have to get some running game going to open up the pass, but we’re definitely going to have to throw the ball a lot, too. Both areas are definitely going to have to be affective for us.”

Near flawless execution is what could make the difference in WKU playing a postseason game in late December or early January. The players hear the talk, but their focus is to worry about their next task on the field, according to Henry.

“There’s some talk going around,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to have to win these next two games and definitely this game. If we don’t, there is no bowl. We’re going to have to take care of our business first.”