Notes: WKU football’s goals still the same

Brad Stephens

Willie Taggart has constantly stated that his team’s goal this season is to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship.

But with the Toppers’ 1-3 Sun Belt record putting the team at the bottom of the standings, winning the conference will be virtually impossible.

Still, the Toppers plan to approach the last four games of the season the same as the first eight.

“I don’t think our goals have really changed,” senior right tackle Preston King said. “Your goal always is to ultimately win the game, and we’re working hard day in and day out.”

King’s counterpart on the line, senior left tackle Wes Jeffries, echoed that.

“Every week we’re coming to win the game, whoever we’re playing,” Jeffries said. “I don’t think the goal has changed at all, and I don’t believe the team’s attitude toward that goal has changed either.”

WKU plays Florida Atlantic at home this Saturday, followed by a road trip to Arkansas State, Senior Day against Middle Tennessee, and the season finale at Troy.

Even if WKU were to win its last four games and finish with a 5-7 record, the Toppers would fall short of the six wins required for a bowl bid.

Keeping the ‘juice’ flowing

Willie Taggart said WKU responded to poor showing against North Texas on Saturday with one of its best practices of the season Tuesday.

The team’s renewed energy carried over to Wednesday practice.

“Last week we were dead at practice,” Jeffries said. “This week everybody has been fired up and ready to play this next game.”

Offensive line coach Walt Wells said WKU has bounced back well from the North Texas loss, calling the team “resilient.”

“They remember the taste from ULL, and they want to taste that again,” Wells said. “They know how close they’ve been against (FAU) these past couple of years, and they should be able to get the win this weekend.”

FAU defeated the Toppers 24-20 in 2008 and 29-23 in 2009.

More big plays for Bobby

Sun Belt teams seem to have finally found a way to somewhat contain dynamic running back Bobby Rainey.   

Rainey has been held out of the end zone in three of WKU’s four Sun Belt games this season, including the last two.

Wells said in order for Rainey to make longer runs, his line will have to make more downfield blocks on linebackers and safeties — “win blocks” as he calls them.

“I tell our guys that once they get their initial block to go get a win-block so that 10 yard run can become a 20-yard run or a 40-yard run,” Wells said.

Defensive coordinators have been keying on Rainey, putting more defenders in the box to stop the run.

North Texas had its linebackers lining up sometimes as close as three yards from the line.

Even with the increased attention from opposing defenses, Rainey is still averaging 107.5 yards per game in Sun Belt play.

“We have been efficient in the running game,” Wells said. “We’ve just lacked hitting some big, long runs. But those will come as long as we keep hammering away and keep working downfield.”

Bullard and Smith out again

For the second consecutive day, senior linebacker Chris Bullard and sophomore right guard Adam Smith were on the sidelines during practice.

Taggart said Tuesday that if Bullard didn’t practice Wednesday, he wouldn’t play against FAU.

Therefore, it seems a safe bet he is out Saturday.

This means senior Orlando Misaalefua will likely see the majority of the reps at SAM linebacker.

Meanwhile Taggart had said Tuesday that Smith’s injury was less serious, and the sling he was wearing was a precaution.

With Smith missing practice again Wednesday, his status for FAU seems to be uncertain.