It’s been 12 days since the Toppers last played a football game, or simply, “a long time” as coach Bobby Petrino said on Sunday.
WKU (4-2, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) has had that time to mentally and physically rest up for what could be its biggest test yet against Louisiana-Lafayette (3-2, 1-0 SBC).
The game features two of the Sun Belt’s top offenses, as both teams sit near the top of the league averaging more than 30 points per game.
In the eyes of the Toppers, there’s a lot riding on the nationally-televised game.
WKU has a chance at revenge from last year’s 31-27 loss in Lafayette. Along with that, the Toppers can knock the Ragin’ Cajuns from the top spot in the Sun Belt in what could be considered a must-win game for WKU’s shot at a conference title.
Both teams enter the contest riding three-game win streaks, and Petrino said that’s a recipe for a great night.
“This is a fun game to play in because there’s two teams that have been playing well, there’s a lot at stake and we’re at home on national TV,” Petrino said. “Our guys will be excited and focused and I would expect that we go out and play well. That’s what I would anticipate, but I guess it’s yet to be seen.”
The dual threat of quarterback Terrance Broadway, who can pick up yards on the ground or through the air, gives WKU a similar challenge to other quarterbacks they have prepared for. The Toppers are used to preparing for dual-threat quarterbacks this year with Kentucky’s duo of Jalen Whitlow and Max Smith, South Alabama’s Ross Metheny, and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds.
But Broadway has already made his mark on WKU after posting 403 yards of offense on the Topper defense last season. The WKU defense has done a good job of containing dual-threat quarterbacks so far this year.
Senior defensive end Bar’ee Boyd said he knows that Broadway completes the Ragin’ Cajun offense.
“They got a quarterback. Their quarterback is pretty good,” Boyd said. “We have to keep him contained because once he gets outside the pocket he can throw.”
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt understands what ULL’s offense is capable of and recognizes its run game as much as the passing. Junior running back Alonzo Harris averages six yards per game as a part of the top rushing attack in the conference. Holt said if the defense isn’t careful, the Ragin’ Cajuns can attack from anywhere.
“Their run game is real solid,” Holt said. “What really stands out is the quarterback play — he makes good decisions, doesn’t turn over the ball very often, not a lot of incompletions and they take shots at you. They’re a big seam, big vertical team and they do a good job — a lot of play-action passes. They suck up your secondary, suck up your linebackers and they throw the ball, chuck the ball over your head.”
More is riding at stake than the standings in the Sun Belt. Boyd said “it’s on” when referring to the Toppers’ chance at revenge in front of a national audience Tuesday night.
With it being WKU’s last year in the Sun Belt before moving to Conference USA, senior linebacker Xavius Boyd said the Toppers understand this game is not only a must-win to help their chances at a conference championship, but it’s a win for who gets the last laugh in the rivalry.
“We really want to get another shot,” he said. “We won’t get another shot, so we don’t want it to be as close of a game as it was (last year). We really want to try and come out and start fast.”