BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm is making the urgency clear to his team.
With three games remaining for the Hilltoppers (4-5) to get over .500 and perhaps become bowl eligible, the first-year coach wants players to approach games with desperation if it hopes to turn the season around.
Last week’s 35-27 win over UTEP was an encouraging first step, and Brohm hopes that mindset carries over to Saturday’s nonconference game against Army (3-6). The second of a three-game homestand could help WKU get closer to bowl eligibility for the fourth straight year.
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The Hilltoppers face a Black Knights team coming off a 35-21 win over Connecticut at Yankee Stadium and seeking its first winning streak of the season.
”We don’t really talk about bowl games but we talked about it this past week,” Brohm said. ”We wanted to put a little pressure on our guys to say, `Look, this is a playoff mentality.’ We basically have to win to advance. We found a way to win.
”It wasn’t pretty, but guys stepped up when we had to and we’re taking the same approach this week. This is a game we have to win.”
WKU’s newfound confidence will be needed against Army’s triple-option offense in the second meeting in two years between the schools. The Hilltoppers saw the same scheme earlier this season at Navy, which rushed for 412 yards but lost 36-27 as WKU returned a late interception for the clinching TD.
”We are already one step ahead,” WKU linebacker Terran Williams said. ”This week we can go into their scheme, which is pretty much like Navy’s. We are going to watch film from last year when we played them at their place. Hopefully some of our rules carry over and we play fast again.”
Here are some other things to watch Saturday as WKU hosts Army:
ARMY’S GROUND GAME: The Black Knights’ signature triple-option averages 298 yards per game and is led by Larry Dixon, who has 739 yards rushing and five touchdowns. It’s yet another challenge for the Hilltoppers, whose defense ranks 124th nationally (527 yards per game) and is allowing 228 per contest on the ground.
BIG-PLAY DEFENSE: Wonderful Terry’s 90-yard interception return for the game-winning TD last week against UTEP was WKU’s fifth defensive score and the fourth over 80 yards this season. It also marked the Hilltoppers’ best defensive effort this season at 394 yards allowed. ”It makes us all confident to know that when it matters, our defense can actually make a play,” linebacker Dejon Brown said. ”We’ve shown we can play at that level. We just have to learn to just keep it up the whole game.”
ESTABLISH THE RUN: Leon Allen has 840 yards rushing this season and 303 yards receiving on 36 catches. But Western Kentucky gained a season-low 34 yards rushing against UTEP and sophomore tackle Forrest Lamp said getting the run game back in order is a must. ”We’ve made a lot of mental mistakes,” Lamp said. ”We’ve missed a D-lineman here or a linebacker there – just a lot of mental mistakes. We have to tighten up on our focus.”
NO DOUBTING DOUGHTY: Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty already holds WKU single-season records for completions, passing yards and touchdowns and ranks second nationally with 371 yards passing per game. At home he has completed 76.5 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns without an interception. ”They are going to complete some passes and gain some yards, but the important thing is to keep them out of the end zone and keep them from scoring touchdowns,” first-year Army coach Jeff Monken said.
MAKING THE JUMP: WKU president Gary Ransdell will tandem jump with The Golden Knights onto the practice field next to Houchens Industries-LT Smith Stadium to present the game ball leading up to the coin toss. The school will also unveil a permanent MIA-POW seat to raise awareness for prisoners of war and Americans missing in action.