Harbaugh looking for light in loss

Keith Farner

Looking past all the negatives that are saddled with a 48-3 season-opening loss to Kansas State, head coach Jack Harbaugh prefers to look at the positives.

“At the beginning of the second half, we came out of the locker room and they had their No. 1 defense in, and we were able to control the ball and move the ball down the field,” he said.

Despite the 48 points allowed, he looked at the plays in which Western shined instead of flickered.

“We had three sacks and 12 tackles for losses out of the 59 plays they ran,” Harbaugh said.

And then there was the emergence of sophomore running back Maurice Bradley. Bradley, who showed flashes of production in the preseason, was charted behind sophomore Jon Frazier Saturday. After Frazier struggled to find a rhythm, Bradley took over and finished with 64 yards on 19 carries.

“I just got a burst of energy,” Bradley said. “I just wanted to play harder and not let my teammates down, and I got the opportunity to step up.”

But it did little good, as Western surrendered 240 rushing yards to Kansas State with the defense collapsing like a marshmallow in a campfire. That production was thanks to a Wildcat line that moved the Topper defenders out of their tackling lanes.

“It was really a result of us getting spread out,” Harbaugh said. “They physically knocked us around a little bit and created space in our defense.”

But with Harbaugh looking to the positives, questions surrounding the inexperienced secondary were answered, given the circumstances. They gave up just 172 passing yards, and they are more confident with a game under their belt.

Even with the team trying to focus on the bright spots, though, they know their ‘A’ game was left in a cornfield somewhere between Bowling Green and Manhattan.

“First half, we did absolutely nothing offensively. Defensively, we gave up too many big plays, both run and pass and special teams,” Harbaugh said. “We did not do a good job with our punt cover team.”

The Toppers will try to bounce back in their home opener with Division II Kentucky State at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. They’ll do so minus a couple of their leaders.

Injury updates

After Western tore the wrapping paper off its new offense last week with 12 passes and 73 yards, it’ll have to survive without quarterback Jason Michael’s favorite target, senior wide receiver Jerome Reaves.

Reaves suffered a slight tear of his medial collateral ligament in his left knee after a defender was blocked into him. He is expected to miss three to four weeks.

Harbaugh said junior wide receiver Carlos Smith will replace Reaves. Also on the shelf will be senior nose tackle Irele Oderinde, who will also miss three to four weeks with a stretched ligament in his foot.

Reach Keith Farner at [email protected]