WKU Football’s Helton talks Army, offensive tempo in media availability


Wyatt Sparkman

WKU head coach Tyson Helton addressed the media on Monday, Sept. 6 2021.

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

The WKU football program (1-0) will travel up to West Point, New York, Saturday morning to play the Army Black Knights (1-0) at 10:30 a.m. C.T. on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.    

“We have a great opportunity to play a really good Army team on the 20th anniversary of September 11,” head coach Tyson Helton said during Monday morning’s media availability. “It’s a great honor to play in that game. I can’t think of a better environment. I know our team will be very, very proud to be a part of that and it should be a good football game, looking forward to it.” 

Army is coming off a dominant 43-10 road win against Georgia State that saw the Black Knights run the ball a whopping 67 times for 258 yards. WKU’s defense surrendered 201 yards on the ground for an obscene 5.9 yards per carry in their previous game against the University of Tennessee at Martin. 

“If you can’t stop them running the football, you’re not going to win the game,” Helton said. “I think that’s really important for us to be able to make the ball stretch out onto the perimeter.” 

The last time the two schools met was back in 2019 and WKU came out on top with a tough, low-scoring 17-8 win at Houchens-Smith Stadium. WKU’s defense held Army to 208 yards of offense while running back Gaej Walker ran for 132 yards, nearly eclipsing Army’s team total of 137 rushing yards. 

“I guess you have to ‘Army them’ back like we did,” Helton said. “You have to play ball, control the offense, you have to be able to run the football and eat up the clock. It may be a boring football game, but that’s kind of the formula: don’t have penalties, don’t have turnovers, have to be able to run the football, and hold the football.” 

Helton said he wants to establish the run and play at a slower pace. WKU had just two drives eclipse the three minute mark last week against the Skyhawks. Army dictated the pace of its game, holding onto the ball for 42 minutes. 

The Hilltoppers used a rotating backfield with graduate Adam Cofield and freshman Kye Robichaux. Both combined for 19 carries and 84 yards against UT Martin. WKU’s offense mainly relied on the passing game in its season opener. 

Graduate quarterback Bailey Zappe threw his fourth 400-yard passing performance in his last five games,  a streak that goes back to his time at Houston Baptist. Zappe’s passing efficiency rating of 242 was the highest by an FBS quarterback with 35 attempts or more since NFL first-round pick Baker Mayfield threw a 266.3 against Texas Tech Oct. 22, 2016.  

“As good as it possibly can be,” Helton said of the team clicking together in the season opener. “…I couldn’t imagine a better formula. It’s like those guys have worked together forever.”

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.