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Know Thy Enemy: A Q&A with WKU

The Hilltoppers aren’t as confident as we are of them topping us.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 FAU at Western Kentucky Photo by Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

1. Ty Storey is still loved as a home state boy. How is he viewed by the WKU faithful?

Ty Storey has been really solid since taking over the starting quarterback job for Steven Duncan in game 4. He started out as a game manager in wins over UAB, Old Dominion, and Army. During those wins, he didn’t surpass 200 yards passing but did a great job of limiting turnovers and letting WKU lean on their solid defense to carry them to victory. During his last three games, the offense has opened up significantly and Tyson Helton is trusting him to throw the ball more (318 Yards per game). WKU’s offense (407 yards per game) has taken off as a result but the higher exposure has led to turnover problems that he didn’t encounter earlier in the season. Against Marshall and FAU Storey had six turnovers (4 picks and 2 costly fumbles). Those have been killers especially since WKU narrowly lost both. I think most fans love what Storey has done overall but hope he can continue to grow as the season closes out and lead WKU back to a bowl game.

2. We’ve both had The Bobby Petrino Experience. How do WKU fans look back on Bobby’s tenure?

I think most fans are happy with how everything played out and the fact that WKU survived their one year with Bobby Petrino. He did exactly what most expected him to do on the field using the talented group of players that Willie Taggart left him and guided him them to an 8-4 season in 2013 including a win over in-state big brother Kentucky in the process. He predictably bolted immediately and returned to Louisville leaving his Offensive Coordinator Jeff Brohm to take over the program. The fact that he was only in Bowling Green for 11 months certainly helped limit the internal damage that he caused at Arkansas and Louisville (leaving a smoldering heap). Leaving Brohm worked out beyond anyone’s wildest expectations (back to back CUSA titles). Petrino also rubbed everyone in the program the wrong way and burned any bridge he had on the way out of town. He was labeled the most hated man in the 100-year history of WKU football by announcer Leo Peckenpaugh. Bobby Petrino actually paid WKU $400,000 to coach during his one season (after buy-out) and that money has helped them elevate the cash strapped program over time. At the end of the day, Bobby and WKU used each other to further their ambitions. WKU got a high-level coach that kept the ship going in the right direction and Bobby got his one-year rehab assignment that he used to get another P5 job. That was a win-win for everyone.

3. How confident are WKU fans of managing an “upset” of an SEC opponent?

I’d say cautiously optimistic. I don’t think anyone is expecting WKU to win the game especially after back to back losses but most are thinking it’s very possible. Most of that is due to the fact that Arkansas already lost to San Jose State a team that is arguably worse than WKU. With Arkansas’s known struggles all season and Morris firmly on the hot seat, a chance to steal a signature SEC win is huge for the program no matter what shape Arkansas is in at the moment.

4. What players should we watch out for on offense?

Wide Receiver Lucky Jackson has really emerged during the last two games combining for 25 catches and 362 yards against FAU & Marshall. He has become Ty Storey’s security blanket and he’ll got to him early and often. Running Back Gaej Walker has put together a solid season (783 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns) and should be able to cross 1000 yards rushing before the season ends. He is the only back that Helton trusts to give more than a couple of carries to. Freshman tight end Josh Simon is a physical specimen 6’5 235 pounds with 4 of his 16 catches going for touchdowns. Helton tries to get him the ball in the red zone when he can.

5. Who will cause problems on the defense?

It all starts with defensive end DeAngelo Malone. He is a disruptive edge rusher that shows up all over the field. He leads the team with 72 tackles and CUSA with 9 sacks on the season. If he’s having a good day then WKU’s defense is performing at a high level. His defensive end side kick Juwuan Jones is also a very steady player with 4.5 sacks and 42 tackles. Linebacker Kyle Bailey is WKU’s other tackling machine (70 tackles) that will make plays all over the field and has 2 interceptions on the season. WKU football is at its best when the pass rush is working as they’ve had troubles creating turnovers most of the season (only 7 forced in 9 games).

6. What’s your score prediction?

Most of the season on these predictions I’ve been conservative hoping to be proven wrong, today won’t be any different. WKU has a solid but not great team that still has problems finishing drives and creating turnovers. While Arkansas is a mess right now, I have a hard time thinking that WKU will be able to slow down the Razorback’s superior skill position players. Rakeem Boyd scares me to death. I think that this one will be close with each team pulling out all stops for a crucial win. I see a late turnover dooming the Hilltoppers again in a 27-24 loss.

7. FSU just fired former WKU coach Willie Taggart. What are your thoughts on that? How soon is too soon to fire a coach?

Taggart was a WKU alum. I think he inherited a mess from Jimbo but didn’t do himself any favors with disorganization and blunders. At a place like FSU you can’t get away with stuff like that. He probably wasn’t given enough time but I don’t blame a place like FSU for moving to stop a fan revolt. We had same thing happen with Mike Sanford last season. Sometimes you’ve got to hit the reset button even if it’s not completely fair to the coach.

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