WKU searched all last season for a passing game target to complement running back Bobby Rainey.
But no one tallied more than 360 receiving yards, and the Toppers averaged a Sun Belt Conference-low 144 passing yards per game.
Seven games into the 2011 season, junior tight end Jack Doyle has emerged as the Toppers’ go-to man through the air.
Doyle has led the team in receiving four times this year, including two 100-yard days in WKU’s past three games.
He said he enjoys the opportunities Head Coach Willie Taggart’s West-Coast offense provides for tight ends.
“Coach Taggart loves the tight ends and of course all the tight ends love it,” Doyle said. “It’s a very dynamic position. If you can block, you can make it on the field, and Coach Taggart will reward you a little bit by throwing you the ball.”
Doyle leads the Toppers this season in both receptions (30) and receiving yards (369).
Many of Doyle’s receptions have come in play-action situations when junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes will fake handing off to Rainey and then look for Doyle over the middle.
With teams having to respect the WKU run game (Rainey averages 130 rushing yards per game), Doyle has had plenty of chances.
“The reason I get the ball is because we do run the ball so much, and I give all the credit to Bobby and the offensive line,” Doyle said. “That’s the only reason they throw it to me. We’ve got to keep the run game going.”
But while the Indianapolis native has led the Toppers in receptions and receiving yards, he’s yet to find the end zone this season.
His closest chance came in WKU’s win Saturday over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Doyle caught a tipped ball and fell backwards toward the goal line. The play was originally ruled a touchdown, but video replay showed Doyle’s knee hit the ground short of the ball reaching the goal line.
“It’ll come when it comes,” Doyle said of notching his first touchdown. “I’m just glad to see the offense finally moving smoothly. It’s just fun, we’ve got to keep this thing going.”
Hampton happy with the DBs
Defensive backs coach Alonzo Hampton says he’s a wins guy, not a statistics guy.
The first-year assistant saw his secondary give up 419 yards through the air on 32 completions Saturday to ULL quarterback Blaine Gautier.
But WKU made enough stops at the end to secure a 42-23 win.
“Playing Louisiana-Lafayette, their guy threw for 400 yards and we won by 19 points. I’ll take that every time,” Hampton said. “Our guys are getting better, our guys are in coverage, there’s no busted coverage. Guys will catch the ball, and we’ve got to make tackles.”
WKU’s recent resurgence has correlated with the return of junior safety Kareem Peterson.
The Lewisburg, Tenn., native missed the Toppers’ first three games with an injury, and the team went 0-3.
Since returning he’s already notched 29 tackles and WKU is 3-1.
Hampton said that’s no coincidence.
“As long as Kareem’s in the game, I feel good,” Hampton said. “With Kareem at the field safety position we’re going to win a lot of ball games.”
Homecoming for Hampton
Louisiana-Monroe will be celebrating its Homecoming this Saturday, as alums and family come back to campus.
One of those alums will be Hampton himself.
The Topper assistant was a Warhawk team captain in 1996 and was named to the All-Louisiana Defensive Back Team in the same season.
He also has a nephew on the ULM track team.
But Hampton said there won’t be any split loyalties on his part come 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I normally get there twice a year to see some friends and I know some coaches,” he said. “But now I’m WKU and it’s just another game on the schedule.”