Toppers look for success by sticking to the script


Head coach Bobby Petrino stands in the tunnel before the game against Tennessee Saturday.

Elliott Pratt

On paper it’s tough to find any positives to take from a 52-20 loss, no matter who the opponent was.

Coach Bobby Petrino and his staff work with the team during the week to fix those mistakes — such as the five turnovers WKU committed in a six-play stretch in the first quarter against Tennessee Saturday — but the coach likes to see the glass half-full.

“One of the things you try to do as a coach is make sure you put away the things you don’t do well and think of the great moments and let those be the things that motivate you,” Petrino said in his weekly press conference Monday.

The coach and his staff game plan the opening drive of each game in script fashion.

On Saturday, they stuck to the script on the opening drive and it worked. In fact, it’s worked in each of the two games WKU has played so far this fall.

Against Kentucky, it was a 75-yard scoring drive led by a perfect five-for-five completed passes from junior quarterback Brandon Doughty capped by a touchdown run from senior running back Keshawn Simpson.

Saturday against Tennessee it was a 14-play, 55-yard move with a field goal from sophomore kicker Garrett Schwettman to give WKU (1-1) its only lead in the 52-20 loss to the Volunteers.

That drive ate up 7:05 off the clock and had the Tennessee defense on its toes — even Tennessee senior defensive tackle Marlon Walls admitted the Toppers came out of the game with an aggressive plan.

“They did a great job of scheming us,” Walls said after the game. “Our coaching staff was trying to figure out what they were trying to do to us as far as protection wise. I think we started to figure it out, and we started to understand what they were trying to do to us.”

Petrino was happy with his team’s efforts to start the game.

The coach said while third down attempts are definitely not part of the plan, his team did a nice job of sticking to the script and converting plays on third down.

“I felt good about the start, particularly when we were converting the third downs,” Petrino said. “We weren’t running the ball very well on that first drive, but we were converting on third downs and protecting the quarterback, so I felt like we were there.”

The Toppers’ tests become a bit different from here on out. They’re done with preparing for SEC teams — it’s now time for Sun Belt Conference play.

WKU travels down to South Alabama (1-1) Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.

When it comes time for the coach to set up a game plan, he and his staff have to look at both the strengths of their own team as well as attack the weaknesses of the opposition, according to Petrino.

“All different things come in to play,” he said. “Some of it is about who you want to get the ball to, how you want to attack, what the defenses are that you believe you’re going to see. Some of it is that you get in different formations, different motions, different shifts, so that upstairs we have an understanding of what they’re doing that helps us for the rest of the game.”

WKU will spend the week preparing for a South Alabama team coming off a 41-39 win over Tulane.

Junior tight end Mitchell Henry said the team can’t treat the Jaguars any differently than preparing for Kentucky and Tennessee.

“They still have great players, they still have a good team and you can’t take any team lightly because they surprise you and then they beat you,” Henry said. “You have to prepare for each team the same, just like they’re the best team in the nation.”