Head Coach Willie Taggart said Thursday during his media sit-down that he noticed the crowd was flat in third-down situations during WKU’s first home game against Indiana.
Then, he realized that WKU had nixed the “Third Down Thunder” tradition without really telling anyone.
So when the Toppers force a third down against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday, Taggart said several WKU players will appear on the big screen to pump up the crowd.
“I think we’ve got something nice for everyone this week,” Taggart said. “A new tradition. Coach Taggart’s all about new traditions.”
Taggart said excitement was up during Wednesday’s football practice, so much so that he even got involved.
“I was flying around to the point where I tried to jump up and celebrate with our players,” he said. “I think one of our players undercut me, and I fell right on my back. But I hopped right back up.
“They said, ‘Coach, don’t let me see you in the training room.’ I’m not average. You won’t see me in there.”
Taggart said he’s happy to be returning home this weekend after playing in Houchens-Smith Stadium just once in the first six weeks of the season.
“You don’t get booed, and you don’t have to worry about crowd noise,” Taggart said. “That’s brutal, especially for a young football team.”
He said leadership is one of the main things still holding WKU back. Jack Doyle and Bobby Rainey are two guys who have become more vocal, but it takes more than two, Taggart said.
“Losing takes a lot out of you in a lot of different ways,” Taggart said. “That’s just part of the culture around here. No one feels like they can stand up and say something.
“I would love for our quarterback to do it. I would love for our middle linebacker to do it. I keep being in their ear, and eventually, if they’re the right ones to do, they will. If not, we’ll find somebody who will.”
Taggart said last weekend’s 28-21 loss at Florida International was beneficial in terms of taking a stand, because each player can think of specific miscues that cost the Toppers the game.
WKU still had a chance to tie with 30 seconds remaining, and that’s a feeling Taggart said the team hasn’t had in a long time.
“That’s what you see on Sportscenter the next day – guys making those plays and catches,” he said. “I think our football team felt the excitement during that. I know I did, but I think they want that feeling again. That was one of the few times they believe — I mean truly believed.”
Taggart said junior safety Mark Santoro (neck) could play this weekend as long as he’s able to practice throughout the rest of the week.
He said freshman safety Kiante Young has been playing well enough to retain a starting spot, but that the other safety position, currently held by sophomore Kareem Peterson, isn’t set in stone.
“I’m looking for someone to lock that spot up,” Taggart said. “That spot is not locked up right now.”