Football notes: Tops return for ‘better’ day of practice Wednesday

Brad Stephens

A lackluster practice was not what WKU head coach Willie Taggart was expecting Tuesday as his team came off its first victory in 26 games.

But after he called for the Toppers to “wake up and improve,” they seemed to practice with more enthusiasm Wednesday.

Junior running back Bobby Rainey said the workout was definitely better “from an execution standpoint.”

“Everybody came out focused and with a lot of juice,” he said.

Junior safety Ryan Beard also said energy and enthusiasm were up from Tuesday.

“We knew what we had to do,” Beard said. “There are always bits and pieces of things you can do better before Saturday, but that’s what practice is for.”

WKU comes into Saturday’s game against North Texas with somewhat of a score to settle.

For the last three years the Toppers have fallen to the Mean Green, and all three games have been somewhat bizarre, including a 69-48 shootout last season.

“We’re real hungry,” Beard said. “Those three losses that we’ve taken to them have been pretty hard to swallow.”

Despite recent success against WKU, the North Texas program seems to be in flux right now.

Head coach Todd Dodge was fired after compiling a disappointing 6-37 record in his three and a half years as coach. But if any team knows about losing a head coach during the middle of the conference season, it would be WKU.

“Those guys are going through a tough situation,” Beard said, referring to North Texas players. “I’m sure their guys are all getting together and trying to rise above it.”

While North Texas’ motivation may be to rally around each other, Beard said the Toppers’ drive comes from a chance to notch a home win — something they haven’t done since Sept. 20, 2008.

Though WKU was able to win last week against Louisiana-Lafayette, it was done on the road in front of a small gathering of fans.

With a large crowd expected Saturday for Homecoming, Beard said it would be a great time to “get one for the fans.”

“They’ve showed us so much support that we really need to pay them back with a W,” he said.

The emergence of Antonio Andrews

One of the offensive stars for WKU Saturday against ULL was freshman running back Antonio Andrews.

The 2009 Kentucky Mr. Football ran for 52 yards and recorded his first two collegiate touchdowns, including a 30-yard fourth-quarter scamper that put the Toppers up 54-14.

Rainey said he’s been helping Andrews, primarily a quarterback in his days at Fort Campbell High School, adjust to the role of a college running back.

“The things I’m telling myself, that’s what I tell him,” Rainey said. “If he executes the way I execute, everything will go great.”

As the season grinds on, finding another weapon at running back will be crucial to keeping Rainey fresh.

Rainey has run for 838 yards this season, while the rest of the team has less than 200 combined.

He said that Andrews is capable of being the valuable second option the Toppers need.

“If I go down, we need someone to be able to carry the load,” Rainey said. “It shouldn’t just be a fallback. Antonio came in last game, executed, and scored a couple of touchdowns, which is what we need.”