OUT OF BOUNDS: Offense not as bad as you think

Kyle Hightower

A few notes from around the Hill.

For all those Western football fans out there who braved the chill and sat amongst 5,600 brethren at Smith Stadium Saturday, only to take a 9-0 win back to warmer living rooms, I’ve got a present for you.

For bragging rights and your own peace of mind, you may now and forever tell anyone who asks what the score of Saturday’s Punt Bowl was, that the final count was not 9-0, but 336-120.

That’s right. Because despite a combined 18 punts between Western and visiting Illinois State, the Hilltoppers still managed to compile 336 yards of total offense compared to the 120 yards the Redbirds posted after their 11 punts.

I know what you’re thinking. What a silly comparison, right?

Yep.

But how equally silly you are if you chastise the Toppers for winning “just” 9-0.

It is true, if you came to Feix Field in search of the 58-point offensive exhibition that the Toppers put on at Illinois State’s place a year ago, you left bewildered, scratching a frosted dome.

Although, if you’ve been watching Western football at all this year, you didn’t come expecting to see that, anyway.

What you did get to see was a group of guys finally become a team as they fought off shaky calls and a much improved, scrappy Redbirds defense to lasso playoff hopes that had been trying to skip off into the pasture.

“It was the most beautiful game ever played,” coach Jack Harbaugh said. “That is football the way Yoast wanted it and Rockne wanted it. Not a touchdown scored? It’s great, and it’s good, old-fashioned football.”

After 40 years of football, give the guy the benefit of the doubt and just nod in agreement.

Don’t scowl at Cowles

On Nov. 23, we will all learn that Little Orphan Annie was dead on target.

On that night, when Louisiana Tech rolls into town to take on the Lady Toppers, we’ll see that the sun really does come out tomorrow.

Last year, Western’s women’s basketball team wasn’t the Lady Toppers, they were the Lady Bottomdwellers – a shell of the dominant women’s hoops program that Western used to boast of, victims of the obscured vision and wayward coaching philosophies of the since-deported (not departed) coach, Shawn Campbell.

I’ll take a deep breath now. That was a long sentence.

And now we should all take a second to replenish our lungs before shouting anything about this upcoming season.

We should step back and dissect the situation, examine it for everything that’s bad (the easy part), as well as point out the good (a little harder to find, but there).

That is what Mary Taylor Cowles did when she finally got her dream job.

The proof is in what her players say.

Junior guard Leslie Logsdon said Cowles is preaching communication.

“She wants us to do more talking and communication on the court, for sure,” Logsdon said. “That is something she stresses every day.

“That’s true, because one of the worst things when you’re playing is getting hit with a screen you don’t see, because nobody tells you it’s coming.”

I agree, Leslie, but I think the lesson Cowles is teaching goes farther than the court.

As off his rocker as Campbell apparently was, many of his problems at Western can be traced to a lack of communication, in all directions.

He didn’t effectively communicate his philosophies. He didn’t effectively communicate criticisms, and he didn’t communicate praise as effectively, or as often, as he probably should have.

The result was a team full of clich?s off the court and a disorganized unit on the floor.

Having been here as pupil and teacher during the “better days” of Lady Topper basketball, Cowles realizes that.

I wouldn’t go out and buy Final Four tickets this season, or maybe the next two or three. But I don’t think Cowles came back to make repeat trips to the WNIT, either.

Kyle Hightower’s column appears on Tuesday and occasionally on Thursday. You can reach him at 745-6291 or by e-mail at [email protected]