WKU not overlooking FCS foe Indiana State

Bobby Rainey stays just out of the grasp of a Navy defensive linebacker during a 13 yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter during WKU’s 40-14 lose at Smith Stadium.

Brad Stephens

WKU finds itself in an unfamiliar position this week — as a favorite.

The Toppers host Indiana State, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Smith Stadium.

Now in its third year as a bowl-eligible, Football Bowl Subdivision team, some may expect WKU to disregard Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) competition.

But Head Coach Willie Taggart said his 0-2 Topper team won’t be looking past any opponent.

“We’re not in a position to underestimate anyone, so I don’t think you’ll see that from the Hilltoppers,” Taggart said Monday. “If anything, you might want to ask Indiana State not to underestimate Western Kentucky right now.

“Our guys understand that if we don’t come ready to play, Indiana State can come in and beat us.”

The Sycamores are 1-1 on the season, having beaten in-state, FCS opponent Butler, 48-34, last week after a season-opening 41-7 road loss to Penn State.

They are led in the passing game by quarterback Ronnie Fouch, a former back-up to Jake Locker at Washington now in his second season at Indiana State.

The Topper defense will also have to bottle up Sycamore fullback Brock Lough, a first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection a year ago who ran for three touchdowns last week against Butler.

WKU and Indiana State last met in 2007, when WKU cruised to a 56-7 victory.

Taggart went 3-1 against the Sycamores from 1995-98 during his days as a record-setting Topper quarterback but said the Sycamores’ talent level has vastly improved in recent years.

“They’ve got some really good athletes in there,” Taggart said. “Their teams in the past didn’t play with a lot of confidence, but you watch this football team and they do.”

Indiana State may be able to take some confidence from the successes FCS programs have had in the past decade.

Recent examples include Virginia Tech’s 2010 loss to James Madison, Appalachian State’s shocking 2007 upset of then-top-10 Michigan, and closer to home for WKU fans, the Toppers’ 2009 loss to Central Arkansas.

Offensive coordinator Zach Azzanni said “the line has blurred” between FBS and FCS competition.

“You see it every Saturday — you can’t take anyone lightly,” he said. “I know here we don’t take anyone lightly. We’re just trying to get a W, and whoever you put in front of us, we’re going to play as hard as we can.”

Senior running back Bobby Rainey was part of WKU’s loss to Central Arkansas two years ago. He agreed with Azzanni, saying the Toppers aren’t in a position to brush off the Sycamores.

“Even though we know Indiana State is an (FCS) team, at the same time we haven’t won a game either,” Rainey said. “We don’t have a luxury to overlook anybody.”

An underlying subplot for Saturday’s game will be WKU trying to snap its 16-game home losing streak, which dates back to Sept. 20, 2008.

Should the Toppers win, senior linebacker Ben Duvall said he’s fine with fans celebrating however they wish.

“I’ve heard fans talk about tearing down the goalposts,” Duvall said. “I’d like to see that happen.”