Commentary: WKU’s three losses all about perspective

Senior Tyler Williams, of Princeton, Ky., puts his head down after a failed play in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Indiana University. WKU lost 38-21 in its opening home game of the season.

Jonathan Lintner

Thoughts written after a sun-baked afternoon at the Houchens-Smith Stadium pressbox. It left me wondering why the original, taller side of the stadium faces the west…

Let’s put yesterday’s 38-21 WKU loss to Indiana in perspective.

After Saturday, the combined record of the Toppers’ opponents is 8-0. Granted three of those were against WKU, but take a look at the records of opponents from other local-area teams.

Kentucky: 1-8

Louisville: 4-4

Indiana: 0-5

Now do you feel as bad about the loss to Indiana, even if Head Coach Willie Taggart labeled it a “step back”?

I sure don’t.

-Junior running back Bobby Rainey again topped the century mark. Rainey went for 105 yards on 21 carries, becoming the first Topper to go for 100 yards in three straight games since Don Smith did it to kick off the 1990 season.

Sounds great, right? But again, Rainey was the only source of movement for the WKU offense. After Rainey gained the bulk of WKU’s yards on the Toppers’ 91-yard scoring drive in the first quarter, IU kept him in check. And in doing so, they kept WKU as a whole in check and reeled off 31 straight points.

The plays that stick out most are Willie McNeal’s dropped pass over the middle on third-and-short. Also Dexter Haynes’ illegal procedure penalty on the same play he caught a 40-yard pass from quarterback Kawaun Jakes.

That can’t happen with an offense so reliant on one guy and so lacking in the “Jimmies and the Joes” department.

-Taggart started a bit of a youth movement on Saturday — a good thing for a struggling secondary. Freshmen cornerbacks Tyree Robinson and Arius Wright gained significant playing time during the second half, when IU quarterback Ben Chappell threw for just 136 yards as opposed to 230 during the first half. Freshman wide receiver Donald Campbell also saw some time, debuting with a 46-yard kick return. Xavius Boyd, another freshman, earned his first start at linebacker and had a hand in three tackles.

The WKU participation report also shows true freshmen Joey Dunphy, Rico Brown and Bar’ee Boyd as playing.

Most of these freshmen, part of Taggart’s first class, could make solid four-year players. They’re not standouts, and Taggart could find something better in future classes, so no need for a redshirt. But it’s good to see the cream rise in the form of young talent three games into 2010.

-Let’s say it together: One more.

The Toppers finally play a team next Saturday in South Florida that’s actually lost a game this season. But the Bulls, like the Hoosiers, enter after a bye week and have more film than any WKU opponent so far of what Taggart likes to do.

Of course I could write up the scouting report right now: Rainey right, Rainey left, play-action to Doyle, with a deep ball into double coverage mixed in every once in awhile.

But that’s all OK. Like Taggart put it about the IU’s size in comparison to WKU’s size: They’ve got trees on the other side while all the Toppers have is grass.

We can nitpick when WKU loses in Sun Belt play. Right now it’s all about getting prepared for that time. It’s not a time to panic about losses to teams fans shouldn’t really expect to beat.

-There was a great environment on Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium. By the numbers, it was the second-best atmosphere ever, with 20,772 fans.

A similar crowd has packed the house for WKU’s season opener the past two seasons, too. If the Toppers want to see those numbers again, they’ll need to set their collective target on Florida International on Oct. 9 as a must-have win.