NOTEBOOK: WKU football not dwelling on past with UK

NOTEBOOK: WKU football not dwelling on past with UK

Jonathan Lintner

They’ve said it before, and on Monday, the Toppers had to say it again: What’s in the past will stay there.

And that applies to WKU’s game this Saturday at Kentucky — the place where the 21-game losing streak began on Sept. 27, 2008.

“We don’t care anything about what’s happened in the past — nothing at all,” Head Coach Willie Taggart said. “I wasn’t here. A lot of these coaches weren’t here, so it’s a lot different. The things we’re doing are different, so there’s no similarities to that back then and now.

“It doesn’t matter what happened back then.”

At Kentucky two seasons ago, WKU entered 2-2 but exited with a 41-3 loss. The Toppers finished with just 157 yards of total offense — 99 of those by now-junior running back Bobby Rainey.

“I really don’t care about that game,” Rainey said. “That’s in the past, and we’re moving on toward the future.”

Taggart said Saturday’s game is important for a number of reasons, including in-state recruiting and changing some of the lingering blue shirts to red on WKU’s campus.

“I think it’s going to take winning, and winning consistently and beating UK in order to get some of those people to change their blue to red,” Taggart said. “Because if they’re wearing blue on this campus right now, you know it’s going to be hard because that’s totally disrespectful to this university if they’re wearing any blue. If they want to wear blue, they can go there.”

What’s Taggart know about Kentucky’s team now?

“I know they’re in the SEC, I know they beat Louisville, and I know they’re pretty fast.,” Taggart said. “They can run.”

Taggart close to Joker

Taggart said he got to know Kentucky coach Joker Phillips during his first stint as a coach at WKU, and after years of friendship, both coaches earned head coaching jobs at their alma maters this past offseason.

But it was long before Phillips had a head coaching gig that he earned Taggart’s respect.

“He’s one of those guys that when I was coming up as a young coach, he was really good at recruiting,” Taggart said. “That’s all you kept hearing. That’s something I want to do. I want to be known as a great recruiter.

“He’s one of those guys that had me shoot for the stars from that standpoint.”

Now the WKU program will shoot for the stars and reach for Kentucky’s level. Taggart noted that since Kentucky beat Louisville last weekend, this weekend’s game becomes a state championship of sorts.

“I’m trying to beat Joker, and he’s trying to beat me,” Taggart said. “He’s not going to take it easy on Wilie, and we know that going in. It’s a ballgame, and I’m going to respect that. We’re trying to beat him and get on his level. That’s what we’re trying to do as a football program. We want to get to some bowl games. We want to win.”

Rainey won’t go 30 a game

“No, no, no,” said Taggart when asked if Rainey will carry the ball 30 times a game again like he did against Nebraska.

Rainey rushed for a career-high 155 yards in the process. Outside of some neck soreness, the junior said there was no fatigue.

“It doesn’t matter how many carries I get,” Rainey said. “If I get the ball, I feel like I’ve got more energy.”

Taggart said he’d like to see Rainey’s workload sit somewhere between 20 and 25 rushing attempts a game.

Rainey had just 144 carries all of last season. Leaving Nebraska, he was on pace for 450.

“I felt like I was back in high school,” Rainey said. “That’s the same mentality that I had when I had 30 carries a game. Just keep pushing.”

Much for the defense to tackle this week

The WKU defense has a lot to tackle this week, senior linebacker Thomas Majors said. Appropriately enough, tackling is the unit’s top concern.

“We did a poor job tackling as a defense,” Majors said. “I feel like, for the most part we were in the right spots. People were in the right places to make the tackles. If it wasn’t for poor tackling, the score wouldn’t have been as bad as it was.”

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez averaged 18.1 yards per carry and scored on rushing touchdowns from 46, 19 and 15 yards out. The Huskers’ offense totaled 536 yards.

Because of a poor performance, Taggart said all jobs on defense remain open.

“People ask me how you correct the tackling thing,” he said. “You put someone in there who can do it.”