Western Kentucky is coming off of a 35-0 loss at Alabama, but they covered the 38 point spread. With the shutout defeat, the Toppers failed to score for the first time in 120 games. They won their opener against Austin Peay, 49-10.
This will mark the Cats and the Toppers fourth all-time match-up. The Cats are 2-0 in Lexington and last year beat them in Nashville. This will be WKU’s 15th game against an SEC opponent and they are still looking for their first win. But if they are in need of more inspiration, just last week a Sun Belt team took care of an SEC squad as Louisiana-Monroe upset Arkansas, 34-31 in OT.
Despite their shutout loss to Alabama, the Toppers left Tuscaloosa with a lot to hang their hat on. They limited the Crimson Tide rushing attack to just 103 yards on 31 carries, which was good for just 3.3 yards per rush. Overall, the Tide picked up 328 yards. Just a week prior they gained more than 400 yards against a nationally ranked Michigan team. They also recorded six sacks against the vaunted Alabama offensive line, with Quanterus Smith recording three of his own.
The Hilltoppers defense ranks 12th in the nation in total defense allowing just 241 total yards per game and they rank in the Top 10 in pass defense and sacks. WKU ranks in the top 25 in passing efficiency and in the top 50 in passing offense.
Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes (6-3, 194) is coming off of a season where he appeared in 12 games and started 11. He set a career high with 1,854 passing yards last year and threw 10 touchdown passes. He is also a threat to run as he rushed for 161 yards. Remember, in college sacks count as negative rushing yards.
Through two games this year it appears that Jakes has gained the consistency that he lacked in the past. He has completed 38-of-54 passes, good for just over 70-percent, for 474 yards while throwing four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has a rushing touchdown.
Losing a future NFL running back like WKU did with Bobby Rainey graduating is not something that is easy to replace. Junior Antonio Andrews (6-0, 211) and freshman Leon Allen (6-0, 235) are doing their best to fill that role.
Allen was rated as a two-star prospect out of Manetee High School in Braenton, Florida. He was a dual-threat back that could hurt you on the ground and in the pass game. He leads the Toppers in carries and yards through two games with 24 for 119. He has one rushing TD.
Last year Andrews saw action in eight games and played both quarterback and running back, while also returning kicks and punts. He has just 66 yards rushing on 13 carries, but has been extremely effective in the passing and return game. He is second on the team in catches and receiving yards with 13 for 66. Overall, he is averaging 180 all-purpose yards per game, which ranks first in the Sun Belt and eighth nationally.
Jakes’ leading receiver is senior tight end Jack Doyle (6-6, 253). Last year he led the Toppers with 52 receptions and 614 receiving yards en route to being named second team all-Sun Belt Conference. Through two games he is leading WKU in receptions with 12 and yards with 121. He has gone 67 receptions without a touchdown.
He was named preseason All-SBC and has led WKU in catches in 9 of their last 14 games. His 121 career catches rank sixth on Western Kentucky’s all-time list.
On defense the Toppers have two preseason All-SBC performers in junior linebacker Andrew Jackson (6-1, 265) and senior defensive lineman Quanterus Smith (6-5, 249). Last year Jackson led the team in total tackles with 109 and tackles for loss with 17 and was named first team All-Sun Belt. He also had three sacks. He has recorded at least one tackle for a loss in 13 of his 14 career starts.
Smith had a team-high 7.5 sacks last year and ranked second with 11 tackles for a loss. He had three sacks last week at ‘Bama.
Head coach Willie Taggert is in his third year at WKU and is 10-16 overall. He is 0-2 vs. Kentucky. He led the Toppers to a 7-5 record a year ago despite an 0-4 start. Overall, Western Kentucky is 8-2 in their last ten games with losses at LSU in 2011 and at Alabama last week.
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