Football notebook: Taggart looking for ‘perfection’ Saturday

MTSU running back Drayton Calhoun (top) is brought down by WKU defensive back Jonathan Dowling during the game on Nov. 1, 2012 at Smith Stadium. The game was tied 17-17 at halftime.

Lucas Aulbach

With the 2012 season coming into its final quarter, WKU still hasn’t played at its peak.

That’s what coach Willie Taggart said Thursday, anyway.

The coach said the Toppers (6-3, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference) have played some good games this season, most notably early wins over Austin Peay and Southern Mississippi, but have yet to play an “all-around great ballgame.”

“That’s something we haven’t done and we keep stressing it,” he said. “I sit here and I talk about it and honestly, that’s what we try and do every week, is try and play our best ballgame”

The Toppers will get their next shot at their best ballgame at noon against Florida Atlantic (2-7, 1-4) in Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Taggart and WKU, a week removed from a tough loss at home to Middle Tennessee State, have worked this week to have more fun and bring more energy to practice.

The coach said that his team has had a good week on the practice field leading up to Saturday’s game.

“I’ve said it all year, our guys understand how to practice,” he said. “We’ve been doing a great job of practicing and we’ve had fun this week of practice.”

WKU has the advantage over FAU on paper. The Topper defense, ranked No. 1 in the Sun Belt Conference, will take on an FAU offense that ranks dead last in the leauge.

Taggart said a victory on Saturday would get the Toppers back on track and take its place as one of WKU’s most important wins of the year.

“There’s three games left and this is the most important one and we want to see if we can go out and play a perfect ballgame,” he said.

Defense ready for anything from FAU

FAU may have the weakest offense in the Sun Belt on paper, but that doesn’t mean Topper defenders are taking the Owls lightly.

“They have a pretty good offense, just like every team in the Sun Belt,” senior defensive tackle Rammell Lewis said. “They play physical, their line is physical, they’ve got some good backs, and they have a decent quarterback.”

FAU is ranked last in the conference in rushing offense and second-to-last in passing offense. The Toppers, meanwhile, lead the Sun Belt in both passing and rushing defense.

Lewis isn’t paying attention to those numbers, though.

He said every team in the Sun Belt is capable of beating any conference school — FAU included.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us just like it is every week in the Sun Belt,” Lewis said. “There’s no team that just really outshines anybody because everybody can beat anybody in the conference.”

Senior defensive end Quanterus Smith said he thinks the Owls will try to beat the Toppers on the ground after WKU’s last performance. The Toppers gave up 233 rushing yards last week against the Blue Raiders, the vast majority of MTSU’s total yards.

“We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Smith said.

FAU coach scouts Toppers as game approaches

FAU coach Carl Pelini knows how much a win on Saturday would mean for the Toppers. He is also well aware of what it would mean for him and his team.

The Owls fell to Navy last Saturday but picked up their first and only Sun Belt win of the season the week before against Troy.

Pelini hopes his team can build on that win against WKU. He said the Toppers are strong at every position.

“They’re solid all the way around,” he said. “I think their D-line is truly exceptional. Their offensive line and their running back is really good and their quarterback is good.”

Other notes

—Junior running back Antonio Andrews has rushed for over 100 yards in seven consecutive games, the longest such streak in the nation. He ranks No. 2 in the NCAA in all-purpose yards per game with 219.1.

—Smith still leads the NCAA in sacks per game with 1.44 and is in a three-way tie for most total sacks this season with 11.5.

—WKU has had just nine three-and-outs on 104 offensive possessions this season.