Football notebook: Defense not happy with performance

Cole Tischer/

Lucas Aulbach

The WKU defense had one of its best games of the season on paper on Saturday against Florida International, sacking FIU quarterback Jake Medlock nine times while allowing just six total points.

That kind of performance still isn’t good enough for the Toppers, though.

Senior defensive end Quanterus Smith had five of those sacks but said the defense has still yet to play its best game of the season.

“We still are not being disciplined, beating ourselves and stuff like — there’s stuff we still can work on,” he said. “I don’t think it was our best defensive game by far.”

Coach Willie Taggart echoed those sentiments. He said defensive errors were a big part of both of FIU’s scoring drives.

“They scored six points — they shouldn’t have scored anything,” Taggart said. “But I thought our defense did play well. They bent but didn’t break and that’s kind of been our theme throughout the year.”

Senior defensive end Cole Tischer had two sacks against FIU, who were led until the last play by Medlock.

He said despite the defensive line’s great night on the stat sheet, they let Medlock get out of the pocket too many times.

“I thought we could’ve kept the quarterback contained a little better on some of those plays,” Tischer said. “We let him escape outside the pocket a couple times.”

The Topper defensive line will have their work cut out for them again on Thursday against Middle Tennessee quarterback Logan Kilgore, who averages 241.2 passing yards per game this season.

The WKU secondary will have the challenge of facing MTSU wide receiver Anthony Amos, who leads the conference in receptions and receiving yards per game.

Tischer said both are having breakout seasons.

“Their quarterback has been playing real well this year,” he said. “They’ve got a good, core group of receivers that we’ll definitely need to focus on.”

Team to play for national audience on Thursday

WKU is hoping for another sellout on Thursday, but even if it falls short, the game will be seen by many more people than a typical game at Smith Stadium.

Thursday’s game will air live at 8:15 p.m. on ESPNU. For the third time this season, the Toppers will play on national television.

“It’ll be fun,” Taggart said. “Any time you can get on national TV, and then be able to get on that at home, is always exciting.”

Tischer said he’s hoping for a good fan turnout at the MTSU game.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good atmosphere out there on Thursday night,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having some family members coming in and just hoping we have a good game that night.”

WKU has had two sellout crowds in the three home games the Toppers have played this season and the two largest crowds to ever attend a WKU football game have come this season.

WKU is holding a “red out” on Thursday, encouraging fans to wear red to the game and giving out free red towels to the first 5,000 fans who show up to Smith Stadium.

Taggart said another sellout would make the Toppers look good to a national television audience that may include bowl representatives.

“We just hope our stands don’t look like some of these other peoples’ stands when you go to their game,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s packed. We don’t want to be embarrassed here in Bowling Green, Ky.”

Toppers playing down rivalry against MTSU

The Blue Raiders are WKU’s biggest rivalry, ask anyone.

Anyone other than the Toppers, that is.

WKU is approaching Thursday’s game against MTSU as if it was any other game, Taggart said.

“Every game’s a rivalry for us,” he said. “It’s another one. Last week was a rivalry. This is a rivalry. Next week’s going to be a rivalry, too.”

Sophomore safety Jonathan Dowling is playing in his first season for the Toppers after transferring from Florida two years ago, so this is his first taste of the WKU-MTSU rivalry.

He said the Toppers’ only goal against the Blue Raiders is to play to the peak of their abilities.

“We’re going to prepare for Middle how we prepare for every other game — play our best game,” Dowling said. “That’s what we strive to do and that’s what coach Taggart wants us to do. He wants us to play our best game, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Toppers beat MTSU in Murfreesboro last season in a double-overtime barnburner, leading some to believe the Blue Raiders might be looking for some revenge come Thursday.

Taggart said that doesn’t matter — WKU doesn’t have any friends in the Sun Belt when they hit the field.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” he said. “Every last one of them is a rivalry for us.”

Other notes

– Quanterus Smith was named Sun Belt defensive player of the week for the second time this season after recording a career-high five sacks and eight tackles against FIU. He currently leads the NCAA with 1.64 sacks per game.

– Junior running back Antonio Andrews ran for 158 yards and a touchdown against FIU. That is the sixth consecutive game he has rushed for over 100 yards, the longest current streak in the nation.

– WKU currently averages 44.3 points per game at home this season. The Toppers dropped 49 points on Austin Peay in the season-opener and scored 42 points against both Southern Mississippi and Louisiana-Monroe.