WKU avoiding Homecoming distractions

WKU avoiding Homecoming distractions

Brad Stephens

Head Coach Willie Taggart said his team learned from last year’s Homecoming.

WKU had beaten Louisiana-Lafayette to snap a 26-game winning streak the week before, and was hosting a 1-6 North Texas team that had seen its coach, Todd Dodge, fired just days before kickoff.

But the Mean Green dominated the Toppers, handing WKU a demoralizing 33-6 Homecoming defeat.

This year’s Toppers head into their Homecoming matchup this Saturday with ULL after a 20-0 shutout of Florida Atlantic.

Taggart said his team will need to avoid the typical distractions a Homecoming week brings in order to avoid a repeat of last year’s letdown.

“We had a young football team that couldn’t handle all the things that were going on off the field,” he said. “I thought we let them get too involved in that and had a lot of pats on the backs… We allowed that to happen too much.”

A Topper team that wasn’t receiving much positive exposure after an 0-4 start may once again have to fend off the pats on the back.

Combined with its Oct. 6 win over Middle Tennessee State, WKU is riding its first two-game win streak since 2007.

The Topper defense shut down the Owls Saturday, holding the FAU offense to just 121 total yards and allowing them to cross into WKU territory just twice all game.

Two rushing touchdowns from senior running back Bobby Rainey and a touchdown scramble from junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes accounted for the Toppers’ scoring.

The dominating defensive performance gave WKU a win in the inaugural game at the 30,000-seat FAU Stadium and gave the Toppers some momentum going forward.

“It’s been a long time since we’d shut anybody out,” junior defensive tackle Kenny Martin said. “Now we’re on a 2-0 win streak, so we’re trying to change things around and that gives us that extra confidence, that shutout — a little goose egg.”

The win improved WKU’s Sun Belt Conference record to 2-1 — putting the Toppers alone in third place in league standings.

With the first-place Ragin’ Cajuns (4-0 Sun Belt Conference) coming into town Saturday, WKU has a chance to take a significant step toward its well-publicized goal of winning the 2011 conference championship.

Junior safety Kareem Peterson said the team isn’t feeling any extra pressure just because that goal now seems more attainable.

“A couple of weeks ago, I still felt like we could’ve won the Sun Belt,” said Peterson, who led the Topper defense Saturday with eight tackles. “We expected to win games so it’s definitely not pressure. We just know what we’re capable of and have to execute.”

WKU will have to prepare for a much-improved ULL team.

The same team the Toppers beat 51-24 one season ago is 6-1 in its first season under Head Coach Mark Hudspeth.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have won six straight and have scored at least 30 points in every league game.

“They’re probably the best football team we’ve faced coming up Saturday,” Taggart said. “They’re not 6-1 for no reason.” 

With a quality opponent coming in and the Toppers in the midst of a Sun Belt title chase, Taggart said his team can’t afford to be distracted this Homecoming week.

“We’ll let everyone else take care of the other festivities for Homecoming — that’s their job,” Taggart said. “Our job is to practice well, go to class and see to it we put out a good performance.”