Notes: Taggart fine with more carries for Rainey; FAU offense dangerous in many ways

Zach Greenwell

Before WKU’s season started, Head Coach Willie Taggart said he’d like to keep junior running back Bobby Rainey limited to about 20 rushing attempts per game.

Eight games into the season, Rainey leads the nation in carries and is ninth in rushing yards per game.

Rainey has carried the ball 198 times this season — almost 25 attempts per game.

“Going in, we weren’t intending on giving him as many carries, but he’s shown that he can and he wants it,” Taggart said Thursday. “That’s what gets you excited, and not only does he want, but he makes something happen when he gets it. Why not give it to him? I’d be a fool not to.”

Rainey had never carried the ball 20 times in a game for WKU before this season, but he hasn’t had less than 21 carries in a game this year.

Taggart said Rainey’s toughness reminds him of former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who Taggart coached to a runner-up finish in 2009’s Heisman Trophy voting.

“But Toby was 230, 235 pounds,” Taggart said. “Bobby’s not that big, but he plays like that. He’s just determined not to let you tackle him, and that’s what you love about the kid.”

Rainey needs 62 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. The milestone would make him WKU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Tyrell Hayden in 2007.

His 2,136 career rushing yards also make him the 11th top rusher in WKU’s history. He remains over 2,200 yards behind the school’s all-time leading rusher, Lerron Moore.

It would take a stellar finish this year and an outstanding senior season for Rainey to catch Moore’s record, but Taggart said he doesn’t think it’s out of the question.

“I think he still can get it,” Taggart said. “I looked at that the other day, and I’d like for him to shoot for it. I’d like for him to not just get it, but burn it up. That’s what (records) are there for — to be broken.

“If we’ve got running backs that aren’t shooting to be the best, we’ve got problems.”

Containing the Owls

WKU will have its hands full defensively when Florida Atlantic (2-5) comes to town Saturday, as the Owls have been strong through the air and on the ground.

Junior running back Alfred Morris, the Sun Belt’s leading rusher last season, has 551 rushing yards and six touchdowns this year.

Quarterback Jeff Van Camp has 1,418 passing yards and eight touchdowns, while receiver Lester Jean leads the league with 626 receiving yards.

“You’ve got to stop one of them,” Taggart said. “If you don’t stop either one, you don’t have a chance. We’ve got to go in and either stop the run or the pass to give ourselves a chance.”

The Toppers surrendered 311 rushing yards to North Texas last week, including 215 and three touchdowns to junior running back Lance Dunbar.

The Mean Green’s strong running game allowed them to control the clock, which is why Taggart said he’d prefer to give FAU the pass over the run.

“Personally, I think you should do that in any game,” he said. “Make them one-dimensional and make them have to drop back and throw the ball.”

Other notes

Taggart said Thursday that the battle for WKU’s starting kicking job is still ongoing between freshman Monte Merrick and junior Casey Tinius.

He said the job is officially Merrick’s to lose after he hit both field goal tries against North Texas as Tinius’ replacement.

Taggart said the competition will continue in tonight’s practice, and the kicker with the best week’s work will take the field against FAU.

“I don’t think we really put them in any pressure situations in practice before,” he said. “Now, it’s that way, and I think it’s good for those guys. I think whoever the kicker is going to be on Saturday will show up ready to play.”

Taggart also said that sophomore tight end Jack Doyle (neck) will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s game. He also said that senior linebacker Chris Bullard will not play after missing practice this week.

When asked what Bullard had injured, Taggart said “everything,” adding that the senior was still recovering from several hits against North Texas.