Toppers trying to forget Monroe meltdown, prepare for Lafayette

Brad Stephens

Normally after WKU loses a game, Head Coach Willie Taggart gives his team 24 hours to digest the loss before turning their attention to their next opponent.

But sophomore tight end Jack Doyle said Saturday’s fourth-quarter meltdown against Louisiana-Monroe took “25 or 26 hours to get over.”

WKU held a 24-7 lead entering the fourth quarter before losing to ULM, 35-30.

“It was the fourth quarter last week, but it’s been a new thing every week,” Doyle said. “We have to learn how to play better situational football.”

Now the Toppers (0-6, 0-2 Sun Belt Conference) are preparing for a road game against Louisiana-Lafayette (2-4, 2-2 Sun Belt).

WKU has played on the road four times this season, and done it in front of as many as 85,000 fans at Nebraska to as few as 14,000 at Florida International.

Since the crowd at Cajun Stadium Saturday will likely lean towards the latter, junior safety Ryan Beard said the Toppers “will have to bring their own sunshine.”

“You’ve got to bring your own juice sometimes,” Beard said. “If you can’t get yourself ready to play, nothing else can.”

Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said he preferred going on the road, citing the distractions that come with playing in the friendly confines of Smith Stadium.

“At home you’ve got these dang girlfriends that can distract guys,” Bowen said. “And maybe when you come out and people boo you and call you names, it wakes you up.”

WKU will take its trip knowing that a win against the Ragin’ Cajuns is likely necessary if the Toppers are to achieve Taggart’s goal of winning the Sun Belt.

The defense will have to find a way to shut down tight end Ladarius Green.

ULL’s offense has been using Green, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound junior, both in a traditional alignment and split out as a receiver, creating matchup nightmares for undersized defensive backs.

Beard said going against Doyle, who also stands 6-foot-6, every day in practice helped the defense prepare for Green.

“He’s a good-looking kid, but it helps a lot having Jack out there to mirror what he does,” Beard said.

Green was selected Tuesday by college football analyst Phil Steele as a second-team tight end on the Midseason All-Sun Belt team. Doyle, meanwhile, was selected to the third team.

He said going up against a player as good as Green provides extra motivation.

“I always check in on how he does, along with other tight ends in the Sun Belt and in the country,” Doyle said. “Coach Taggart is always talking about competing, and comparing myself  provides a little extra incentive.”

Though last week’s problem was in the fourth quarter, Beard said this week the WKU defense must concern itself with the beginning of the game.

“They’re known for starting fast and scoring early,” Beard said. “We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen by coming out and playing aggressive early.”

Bowen said it all comes back to being able to put together an entire four-quarter football game – and hopefully snapping a 26-game losing streak in the process.

“With the teams we’re playing against, the margin of error is very small,” Bowen said. “We have to play with a gunfire mentality from beginning to end.”