They’re not in Kansas anymore

Keith Farner

The Toppers seemed to favor the sledgehammer over the spoon Saturday, using it to force-feed Division II Kentucky State a steady diet of run and pass and cram a 49-0 shutout down the Thorobreds’ throats. But after getting ahead by 31 points in the first half of their home opener, staying focused was Western’s top priority.

“We tried not to do that (lose focus),” senior quarterback Jason Michael said. “We told ourselves that we needed to come out in the second half and put more points on the board, and we were able to do that.”

After winning the starting job last week at Kansas State, sophomore running back Maurice Bradley continued to impress. He scored two first-half touchdowns and left the office with 80 rushing yards on 19 carries. His two scores, including the 1-yard capper on Western’s 14-play, 87-yard opening drive, were the first of his career.

But Bradley shared center stage with Michael, who quickly made fans forget about last year’s starter Donte Pimpleton. Michael had a perfect first half passing, going 6 of 6 for 105 yards. His wheels weren’t bad, either, as he rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown.

“I think they gave him some options and he took what they gave him. And that’s what you’re going to see with Jason,” Western head coach Jack Harbaugh said. “He isn’t going to outrun anybody, but he will run away from you and he will run into you.”

Michael finished the game with a career-high 168 yards through the air on 8 of 10 passing. That, combined with 371 rushing yards for Western, including 102 on the ground from Jon Frazier, added up to the Toppers’ best offensive output since the 2000 season opener.

And it was apparent that once Western put up a few points, the overmatched Thorobreds were finished.

“We wanted to finish the game just like we started,” junior linebacker Erik Dandy said. “We wanted to finish, we lost three games last year because we didn’t finish and that was our main goal.”

Dandy led the defense – which allowed Kentucky State just 107 yards of offense and no net rushing yards – wth 12 tackles.

But after the game, K-State head coach Donald Smith was upset mostly with his team’s effort and undisciplined penalties.

“Those are the two things. You don’t have to make excuses, because I don’t care if they’re Division I and we’re NAIA, if you get effort and you’re disciplined, you can do something. And I didn’t see that tonight,” Smith said.

But Smith wasn’t alone in his disappointment. Both teams collected 11

penalties apiece for a combined 212 yards. And if there was a negative in the game for Western, that was it.

“Lack of discipline is usually the cause for penalties, and I think that was

it,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the area you see some things that need improvement.”

Western will try to work on that, and keep the offense in step, for Week Three.

The Toppers’ open their conference season next week when Western Illinois comes to town. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.