‘Work week’ welcome for football Toppers

Brad Stephens

Has there ever been a better time for a bye week?

Maybe not, considering what WKU football went through one week ago.

Negativity surrounding the program reached a fever pitch during the Toppers’ 44-16 loss to Indiana State on Sept. 17.

With each Sycamore score, more fans headed to the Smith Stadium exits. Many of those that stuck around made their feelings known with a heavy chorus of boos.

Other disgruntled fans took to social media sites to opine about Head Coach Willie Taggart’s coaching credentials, the university’s allocation of athletic funds toward stadium renovations and whether or not WKU even belongs in the Football Bowl Subdivision — college football’s top flight.

But with no game on the schedule until an Oct. 1 home date with Arkansas State, the Toppers have a chance to put the negativity aside and fix some on-field issues in what Taggart called a “work week.”
“We had a lot of mistakes in that ballgame, and we’re going to work on correcting those mistakes,” Taggart said Tuesday at practice.
Junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes is experiencing his third straight season in which WKU has gone into its bye week following a loss.
He said having a week to fix problems instead of strictly preparing for an upcoming opponent provides the Toppers a chance for reassessment.
“It’s a week to ourselves where we get to understand what we’re not doing right,” Jakes said. “As a team we need to work on getting better.”
There was no shortage of areas for WKU to focus on during its work week.
The defense spent the week engaged in tackling drills, as the Toppers’ last two opponents (Navy and Indiana State) gashed WKU for more than 600 combined rushing yards.
Up front, the offensive line was working on blocking techniques after struggling all game against the Sycamores to pave rushing lanes for senior running back Bobby Rainey.
And in the passing game, Jakes was working to get in sync with a young bunch of wideouts called upon to fill the void left by the season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear of junior Marcus Vasquez, the Toppers’ most productive receiver thus far.
Jakes said a desire to overcome all the hurdles facing the program have motivated the team to stick together.
“We’ve got each other,” Jakes said. “That’s all we can rely on right now…What happens here stays here.”
Of course, the easiest way for WKU to quiet its critics will be to come out Oct. 1 and start the Sun Belt Conference season with an important win over Arkansas State.
Senior defensive end Bo Adebayo said the team won’t have trouble recovering from the Indiana State debacle and said they’re looking ahead to the Arkansas State matchup.
“A lot of people have different emotions, but I feel for the most part we’re hungry and we want a win,” Adebayo said. “We’ve moved on from (Indiana State), and we’re trying to get ready for this next game.”
If those supporters angry about the outcome of WKU’s first three non-conference games can take away anything positive, it’s that the Toppers are still 0-0 in league play.
For a team that has announced its goals of a Sun Belt Championship and a berth in its first-ever FBS bowl, Adebayo said everything remains on the table. 
“We played these first three games, they didn’t turn out the way we wanted to,” he said. “But now we have a chance to come out and do something else. We’re all looking forward to a new start.”