Football notebook: WKU gets three Top 25 votes

Lucas Aulbach

Saturday’s overtime win over Kentucky hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of the nation’s coaches.

WKU received three votes in the most recent USA Today coaches poll, released on Monday, placing them as the No. 45 team in the country.

The Toppers were one of two Sun Belt Conference teams to receive votes. Louisiana-Monroe, which received four votes, is currently rated one spot higher than WKU.

Coach Willie Taggart said while the Toppers didn’t expect to get national recognition this early in the season, he feels like the team can rise even higher in the polls.

“We’re not in the top 25, so it’s not good enough,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to work — we never anticipated that’s going to happen in just three games.”

Taggart, Toppers preparing for Southern Mississippi’s uncertain QB situation

Taggart doesn’t know who will be under center for the Golden Eagles when they come to Smith Stadium this Saturday.

Southern Mississippi, alma mater of NFL great Brett Favre, uses two quarterbacks, junior Chris Campbell and freshman Anthony Alford.

Campbell started the Golden Eagles’ opener, a 49-20 loss to Nebraska, and has racked up 214 yards and two touchdowns through the air in the first two games for USM.

Alford started the second game, a 24-14 loss against East Carolina, and is apt to making plays with his feet. He has 94 passing yards this season to go along with his 163 yards on the ground.

Taggart said the Toppers will prepare for both quarterbacks.

“They’re going to run their offense,” the coach said. “Their offense is what it is.

“One guy runs the ball and the other one doesn’t. It is what it is and our guys have got to do a great job of watching film and studying their opponents and understanding what they’re doing when certain guys are in the game.”

Sun Belt stronger than some expected

WKU’s weekend win over Kentucky might have surprised some national pundits, but it was far from the only early-season bright spot for the Sun Belt Conference.

Several Sun Belt teams have made their mark on the national football landscape.

Louisiana-Monroe beat then-No. 8 Arkansas in its season-opener on Sept. 8 before falling in overtime last weekend to Auburn, 31-28. Both are SEC schools.

Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee have both scored early-season wins over Memphis, who will be a member of the Big East Conference next season.

Strong showings by WKU and other Sun Belt teams can go a long way to change the national perception of the conference, Taggart said.

“The reality is we play really good football in the Sun Belt and have some good teams that are capable of beating anybody on any given Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday night game,” he said. “It’s showing you the progression in our conference and where we’re going and this is only the beginning. It’s only going to get better.”

Injured Toppers could return soon

The WKU offense has suffered some personnel losses early in the season, but Taggart said on Monday that a couple of injured players could be back soon.

Junior running back Keshawn Simpson, who hurt his knee after starting in the season-opener against Austin Peay, could be back as early as this weekend, Taggart said.

“He’s bending his knee and moving it around and it’ll be a big week,” he said.

Sophomore wide receiver Joel German could be back this week too. He has yet to play this season due to a shoulder injury.

Taggart said players returning to the field after an injury can help build a team’s morale.

“Our guys really do care about each other,” he said. “When they get one of their teammates back they get excited, especially a teammate that went out and worked hard and performed and they saw it, too.

“I think it’s always beneficial to get someone back that can help you be successful.”