This story was originally published Aug. 12, 2010.
Even a football team chasing greatness has to yield to Mother Nature from time to time.
Western had its football practice Thursday — the third straight on the auxiliary field — cut short by about 40 minutes by thunderstorms in the area, frustrating Head Coach Willie Taggart.
“We talk about trying to be consistent and stack some really good practices together, and halfway through there, we had a pretty darn good one going on,” Taggart said. “I was a little disappointed that we had to stop because we had some really, really good plays going in, and we didn’t get to run them. We’ve got to wait until tomorrow now.”
The Toppers take another step Friday when they dress in full pads for the first time.
Sunday will be the team’s first two-a-day session, and as practices get tougher, Taggart said he hopes his players do too.
“I want to see guys coming out and being physical on both sides of the ball,” he said. “I want to hear some pads – I don’t want it to be a pillow fight. I want to hear pads clacking. That’s one thing I’m looking for, but I still want the energy that we had today – even more.”
For the two-plus hours Western was able to practice Thursday, the Toppers finally got a little relief from the heat as storms rolled in.
But don’t look for the players to breath sighs of relief. Senior wide receiver Quinterrance Cooper said the heat has yet to faze them.
“Day one we came out kind of slow, but after that practice has been fine,” Cooper said. “We haven’t been worried about the heat or anything like that. We’re just getting after it. If we just stick to what we need to get done and get it done, every practice will be a good practice.”
As the media has seen each day of practice, the Toppers are still experimenting with different lineups and rotating players in and out at a rapid pace.
While that only gives the offense so much to work with for the time being, junior running back Bobby Rainey said the foundation was laid months ago.
“It’s coming slowly, but it’s coming,” Rainey said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys in there today, getting reps and mixing it up early. We’re not quite there, but it’s there. We saw it in the spring. You’ve just basically got to refresh a lot mentally.”
As for the plays that Western wasn’t able to implement Thursday, Taggart said that process would begin tonight during team meetings. This will be the shortest turnaround between practice times for the team, as they practice again from 9 a.m. until noon Friday.
“When they wake up, we’re rolling again,” Taggart said. “The guys have to have a great meeting tonight. Guys can’t just be in there to be in there, because we have to get better. We’ll install some more stuff tonight, and guys have to keep rolling because the bus isn’t going to stop.”
Tops hushed on Huskers
The big elephant in the room for fans and media so far this fall has been the lack of talk about Western’s season opener at Nebraska on Sept. 4, but don’t expect to hear more from Taggart in the near future.
“We’re going to get ready for Nebraska when it’s time,” Taggart said. “Right now, we’ve just got to get good at what we do. We’re still in the process of doing that, and if we’re not good at what we do, it’s not going to matter.
“One thing about football: Everybody pretty much runs the same defense for the most part. We’ll go against it in practice, and when you get in the game, you look for tendencies then.”
Taggart said he’s been trying to build a mindset, with part of that being looking at the fall as a chance for the players to improve themselves. He said those efforts have been a success so far.
“We just don’t talk about it. The only time I hear about Nebraska is when the media asks,” Taggart said. “We just go out and practice. We’re not even thinking about them right now. We’re out here competing against each other right now, and it’s good that our guys aren’t thinking about that.
“When it comes time, we will. I’m sure Nebraska isn’t thinking about us right now either. I’m sure they’re trying to get better too.”