Coming into the 2015 season there were two common thoughts around the Western Kentucky football program: the offense was explosive and can put up big numbers, and the defense had a 50/50 shot of stopping someone on a consistent basis.
The opener last week against Vanderbilt proved all of those prognosticators wrong. The offense was sluggish for the Toppers but defensive coordinator Nick Holt’s defense led the charge for the Toppers.
"[It was] a really good effort," Holt said. "That’s how we expect to play here and hopefully we’ll have an even better effort this week since we’re playing in front of our home crowd. We’re really excited about that."
Holt’s son, Nick, was the anchor of the defense yet again, turning in a seven-tackle performance along with a key interception in the end zone towards the end of the first half from his linebacker spot.But tonight the Toppers' defense get another major challenge. Louisiana Tech rolls into L.T. Smith Stadium behind their high-octane offense led by former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, and will likely pose a bigger problem for the WKU defense than Vanderbilt did.
“They’re very explosive [and use] a lot of spread, a lot of four-receiver [sets] and they have a good running back," Holt said. "They’re very good on offense. It is a challenge when you get spread out and the ball is being thrown all over the place.”
The Bulldogs specialize in moving the ball around the field quickly and efficiently, and last season they did just that en route to hanging 59 points on the WKU defense.
“Last year just wasn’t a good day for us," Holt said. "We missed opportunities, had a short field all day long, had some missed tackles and gave up big plays. When you give up a kickoff return for a touchdown and have five turnovers in a game you can’t beat a good team, regardless of how bad you play on defense."
It didn’t help that Brandon Doughty had one of his worst games of the season (14-35 for 134 yards and four interceptions) last year against the Bulldogs, but this time around, Holt expects his defense to hold up better.
But the defense will be without junior safety Branden Leston for at least one half of play as he will sit out the first half on Thursday because of a targeting penalty that occurred last week in Nashville. Nevertheless, coach Holt knows the task at hand.
“These guys are really good out on the perimeter," he said. "We just have to keep things in front of us and negate the big play.”