Taggart says players’ focus is North Texas, not Bowen

Brad Stephens

WKU players will be looking across the field at one of their old coaches when they take on North Texas on Saturday.

Mean Green defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is in his first season with North Texas after spending the 2010 season in the same position with the Toppers.

Head Coach Willie Taggart said his players’ motivation for the North Texas game will come from their chance at continuing a march for the Sun Belt Conference championship, not from trying to prove anything to a former assistant.

“Our football team is not playing Coach Bowen. We’re playing North Texas,” Taggart said. “He left to go to North Texas, and that’s fine. Everybody has their reasons for doing things. 

“And we like our players, and we like our university here. Our guys will be fired up about North Texas and getting to (win) No. 6.”

Under the watch of Bowen, a former Kansas assistant, the Topper defense improved from a No. 118 national ranking in 2009 to a No. 68 ranking in 2010.

He submitted his official letter of resignation to WKU last Dec. 8, less than two weeks after the team finished a 2-10 season.

Days later he was announced as the new defensive coordinator for the Toppers’ Sun Belt Conference rival Mean Green.

According to the Texas Tribune, Bowen’s salary at North Texas is $160,000, compared to the $104,000 annual salary he received at WKU.

Lance Guidry now serves in Bowen’s former role as the Toppers’ defensive coordinator.

Taggart said he wasn’t concerned about Bowen using any inside knowledge of the WKU offense to his new side’s advantage.

“He wasn’t here long enough,” Taggart said, smiling. “You can’t be here just a year and think you know us inside out… This football team is different; this program is different.”

Rainey vs. Dunbar

Saturday will be the last chapter in the battle between WKU senior running back Bobby Rainey and North Texas senior running back Lance Dunbar.

Both have had successful careers at their respective schools, as Rainey ranks No. 2 on the Toppers’ career rushing list while Dunbar ranks No. 2 all-time at North Texas.

Soon after Dunbar was selected as the co-preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year at the league’s Media Day, he made some controversial statements concerning Rainey.

“People expect Bobby Rainey to be the No. 1 running back, but I think I’ve proven that I’m better than him,” Dunbar said in July.

Rainey chose not to enter a verbal spat with Dunbar, saying at the time, “Numbers don’t lie.”

So far this season, Rainey has out-produced Dunbar, rushing for 125.4 yards per game compared to Dunbar’s 80 yards per contest.

But there’s a possibility Dunbar might not be able to face Rainey and WKU on Saturday.

He left last week’s win over Troy with a knee injury, which North Texas Head Coach Dan McCarney said would be evaluated on Monday by an MRI.

MRI results hadn’t been released as of press time.