Players with bumps and bruises had the opportunity to rest and heal during the bye week. Most should be ready to play this Saturday against Ball State. #10 Marion Rumph was at practice last night but is getting over an ankle injury from the MTSU game and questionable for action Saturday. The good news is he is out of the boot and is much better. #9 Rashad Etheridge looked to be much better and was in very high spirits. #20 Clay Stephens injured his hand against BGSU but practiced and will play this Saturday. #3 David Wolke is good to go and looked good all practice.
The Hilltoppers have now turned "coffin corner" will have to play seven straight weeks without a break.
What can we expect for the remainder of the season?
Offensively WKU is in great shape. The depth chart is healthy and production should continue throughout the season. Several turnovers committed against BGSU can be attributed to outstanding defensive play as much as offensive miscues. The duel quarterback systems has worked well for WKU and with Wolke feeling better teams will have to prepare for two quarterbacks that bring different things to the table. #1 Tyrell Hayden has paced the running game gaining 424 yards with 103 carries. Hayden has passed the century mark the past two games gaining 265 yards with 41 carries, a 6.5 ypc average. #15 Curtis Hamilton, #11 Jake Gaebler and #86 Quinterrance Cooper have lead the corps of receivers this season. When an offense is averaging over 200 yards rushing per game, the offensive line is getting the job done. The line has played well this season. #55 Terrance Houston, #64 Andrew Campbell and #70 Cody Hughes have played consistent football all season and will ensure the running game stays on course.
The offense is averaging 31.4 ppg, 19.2 first downs, 212 rushing yards, 151.1 passing yards, 362.2 total yards, and 2.4 turnovers per game. WKU has moved the ball on every defense this season. If the Hilltoppers were not provisional this season, their rushing offense would be ranked in the top twenty nationally. I expect the offense will continue to have a strong running game and look for opportunities to earn more production from the passing game.
Defensively, the Hilltoppers have played well, overall, this season. #13 Andre Lewis is a tackling machine and #53 Dusty Bear and #6 Blake Boyd play has been consistent as well. The defensive line play with #91 Nick Walker, #90 Dan Cline, # 95 Robert Dark, #92 Jon Belcher and #96 Kyle Anderson has been good and dominating at times. The secondary has suffered injuries to two major contributors but has maintained a high level of play with #5 Bo Smith, #20 Clay Stephens and #2 Marcus Minor playing well. Without a doubt, getting #10 Marion Rumph and #9 Rashad Etheridge healthy and back on the field will help the secondary tremendously. The defensive stats through five games are; 22.6 ppg, 16 first downs, 106.6 rushing ypg, 184 passing ypg, 290 total ypg, 4.8 ypp and 1.6 turnover per game. I expect the defense to continue to be aggressive, physical, with reckless abandon. Looking to cut the average yards per play and causing more turnovers will be important for the remainder of the season. However, limiting opposing offenses to 290 total yards per game, if not a transition season, the Hilltopper defense would rank in the top 15 nationally.
The special teams have been excellent all season. #83 Chris James is among the best in the country making five of six field goals, with a .833 average. #44 Jeremy Moore has punted very well this season and is averaging 40.5 yards per punt with a 35.43 net.
Stats alone do not tell the whole story about any team. Team chemistry, coaching, heart, work ethic and desire to win, cannot be measured with a calculator. Through the first five games this season, the Hilltoppers have three wins and two losses. Most pundits had WKU at 2-3 at best and 1-4 at worst. What this team has proven, thus far, is that players win football games on the field. Stats, opinions, predictions, and nomenclatures such as division I or II does not matter as much as the confidence and belief that you can succeed and win.
Much has been written about WKU's move to division one both positive and negative. Whatever your view, two things about this season cannot be denied; the Hilltoppers have played well and the move has been a huge success.
The Hilltoppers will be back in action this Saturday at Ball State, 2:00 PM EST.