Big Ten foe Indiana poses another challenge for WKU

WKU players wait to take the field before last week’s game at Kentucky. Head Coach Willie Taggart said the Toppers’ week three opponent — Indiana — “won’t be easy.”

Zach Greenwell

Head Coach Willie Taggart is all about a little confidence, but he said there’s a big difference between that and ignorance.

As of Wednesday, had Indiana University as a 13-point favorite over WKU (0-2), but Taggart said he’s heard plenty of people say the game should be an easy win for the Toppers.

His response: hold your horses, folks.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Taggart said after the Kentucky loss. “Everybody wants to say, ‘Oh, it’s Indiana. You should get a win.’ Indiana’s in the Big Ten. I mean, what are we talking about, guys?”

That’s not to say Taggart can’t envision a WKU victory this weekend. But after playing Nebraska and Kentucky to open the season, he said he just wants people to realize that Indiana is no slouch itself.

“It’s not different than what we’ve been seeing these last two weeks,” he said. “We’ve been seeing some giants — some mutants. Guys have been huge out there. It’s the Big Ten. It’s not going to get any easier.

“Every week, we’re going to be in for the fight of our lives, and we understand that.”

The Hoosiers, who finished 4-8 last year, opened this season with a 51-17 victory over Towson.

Indiana Head Coach Bill Lynch told reporters Monday that his team is also working to keep confidence in check, suggesting that WKU has been circling the Hoosiers on its calendar for months.

“When you go on the road into a non-(Bowl Championship Series) conference school, it’s a tough environment because we’re the first Big Ten school to go there,” Lynch said. “They have a renovated stadium, and they’ve been looking forward to Indiana coming down there since this thing got on the schedule.”

Playing at home will be a welcome change of pace for the Toppers after competing in front of a combined 152,139 people at Nebraska and Kentucky.

The crowd Saturday will likely be about one-eighth that number, but junior running back Bobby Rainey said that’s irrelevant.

“It’s basically just a regular game,” Rainey said. “We’re at home, so it doesn’t matter who comes in.”

Lynch said Rainey would be a “significant part” of Indiana’s preparation this week after Rainey rushed for 339 yards in the first two games.

“He’s very durable, quick, and he has breakaway speed, so that is going to be a challenge for us,” Lynch said. “He breaks tackles, he will make you miss, and he is a competitor. If you watched him run late in the games against Nebraska and Kentucky, he kept going.”

But the Hoosiers have plenty playmakers of their own.

Senior quarterback Ben Chappell completed 16 of 23 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns against Towson, while sophomore running back Darius Willis had 102 rushing yards and two scores on just 14 carries. The Hoosiers also have three starting wide receivers that are 6 foot 3 inches or taller.

But none of that matters to Taggart. Although he doesn’t think WKU should expect an easy win, he said the Toppers should be battle-tested enough to find a win the hard way.

“It’s going to work out,” Taggart said. “It’s not like we just played two fluke football teams — we played two really good football teams. I thought our team stood up pretty well at times but we just hurt ourselves. We’re not good enough as a football team to hurt ourselves like we did. We’ve got to learn to do those things better.

“That’s what winning football teams do. We’ve got to learn how to win.”