WKU keeping positive attitude through hard times

Zach Greenwell

When asked Tuesday how WKU was managing to stay upbeat despite a 0-4 start this season, Head Coach Willie Taggart chuckled at the question.

It’s an inquiry Taggart’s fielded after every defeat, each time providing an answer about finding improvement and ignoring the program’s mounting losing streak.

But on Tuesday, Taggart had a question of his own: Why not stay positive?

“I tell those guys there’s no reason for us to put our heads down,” Taggart said. “We’re at the freaking bottom, so there’s no reason to put our heads down. Just keep climbing, and we’ll get there.”

Taggart said he saw progress in each of WKU’s first four games — an opening slate rated the 12th-toughest in the country by the Sagarin Ratings.

Even after originally criticizing the team following its 38-21 home loss to Indiana, Taggart said he eventually realized things weren’t as bad as they first seemed.

“Everything we said from the beginning is happening that way,” he said. “We control our own destiny, but if we sit back and pout, we’re definitely not going to get better. One thing I know is that way doesn’t work.”

Taggart said optimism is something he’s basically had to teach to a WKU team that forged through a winless 2009 season.

Junior running back Bobby Rainey said things looked bleak last year, but the new coaching staff has been realistic since day one.

“We already knew going into those first four games that it was going to be a fight,” Rainey said. “They told us to keep fighting and something would break through for us. With football you’re going to have lows. It’s just up to you to have more highs than lows.”

Junior defensive end Jared Clendenin said WKU’s positive outlook isn’t a case of denial. He said the Toppers have been able to recognize weaknesses — like surrendering 226 rushing yards to South Florida — and put their energy into fixing them.

“It is a new overall attitude,” Clendenin said. “Two hundred yards rushing — that’s ridiculous to me. It would have been ridiculous last year, but still.”

Taggart said before the season began that WKU’s only goal other than getting better each game was winning the Sun Belt Conference championship.

It’s a lofty mission that begins Oct. 9 at Florida International, but it’s one Taggart said he expects the Toppers to chase with enthusiasm after weathering the first storm.

“Building this program is not going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle,” he said. “Instead of just hanging in there, we need to start to expect to win. That’s something we lost around here, and it’s something we need to get back.”