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October 19, 2011Sign-up for InsideHilltopperSports.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
Last weekend was a historic one for the WKU football program. Not only did the team shutout FAU 20-0 in the grand opening of their home stadium and put together their first winning streak since 2007, the team finds itself above .500 in conference play for the first time in school history as well as putting together its first conference win streak in school history. Despite its recent success, the team has chosen to keep this new attitude rolling.
"[Momentum] is huge," said head coach Willie Taggart. "We call it 'Uncle Mo.' You always want Uncle Mo on your side. Whenever he is on your side, good things happen. Whenever he jumps to the other side, you go 'oh man.' It is good, and more than anything we are gaining confidence. Our football team is just getting better. It is getting better on some of the things that were hurting us early in the season, and it is good to see that we are correcting some of mistakes and getting some really good results for that."
The Tops will look to continue their winning ways as they return to the Hill for homecoming as they host the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, which sit at the top of the Sun Belt Conference standings. While WKU did defeat the Cajuns by 33 points last season, they are up against a completely different team than they handled last season.
"They are a very, very, very good football team," said Taggart. They are probably the best football team we have faced this year, and that is counting everybody we have played. All around, offensively, defensively and special teams, they are not 6-1 for no reason. They have a really talented quarterback, some receivers to get the ball to and a talented running back. Defensively, they have a big defensive front. They create turnovers and are a really good football team because of that. Guys fly around and create turnovers on defense. They are a really, really good football team."
Not only will the Tops have to battle a fierce, unrelenting opponent, but they are also battling the weight of a dubious streak. WKU is still searching for their first win at Houchens-Smith Stadium since September 20, 2008. On that date the Tops defeated Murray State 50-9 in front of the largest crowd in school history. Since that time WKU is a lowly 0-18 in home contest, but this weekend to make amends to that streak while simultaneously knocking off the number one team in the Sun Belt.
"We expect to win and be the best in the Sun Belt," said junior defensive lineman Kenny Martin. "That was our goal since spring. We worked hard over the summer and in fall camp, and we expect to have a winning season. Right now, we are still on that mission to have a winning season."
One key to defeating their homecoming is containing star quarterback Blaine Gautier. So far this season, Gautier has completed 74/114 of his passes for 1054 yards and 10 touchdowns while only throwing one interception. The task at hand for the defense will be to stop this dual threat quarterback who is the most efficient in the conference.
"We [have] watched film on their quarterback," said junior defensive back Kareem Peterson. "He knows how to run and keep the play alive. They look athletic. The quarterback can both run and throw, and that is dangerous. He is good at getting the ball to his receivers."
The Tops will look to counter this potent offense with the second best pass defense in the conference. They will also look to contain Gautier with large amounts of pressure from the Sun Belt's leading tackler Andrew Jackson as well as crafty veterans Jared Clendenin, Jamarcus Allen, and Quanterus Smith. If WKU's defense is clicking, there are not too many teams in the nation who can move the ball with ease.
On offense the Tops game plan is the same as usual: feed their work horse, Bobby Rainey, and get timely passing production from quarterback Kawaun Jakes, tight end Jack Doyle, and the rest of their wide receivers. The WKU offense did get a bit of good news this week as wide receiver Willie McNeal was cleared to practice this week after being sidelined with a knee injury.
The team also learned that fullback Kadeem Jones is only day-to-day after suffering an ankle injury against FAU. Sophomore kick returner Antonio Andrews is also available for this weekend's contest after he was suspended for the FAU game for remarks he made on his Twitter account.