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Western Kentucky Breakdown: Previewing the Toppers


bigred2

Is anyone else concerned about this child?

 

It is finally upon us.  The summer months have slowly dragged on, devoid of any relief for Wildcat fans.  In just two days, Kentucky will take the field for the debut of the Mark Stoops era.  And though coaches have attempted to temper enthusiasm with talk of limited depth and talent on the roster, the fan base is nonetheless almost giddy at what appears to be the dawn of a new age of Kentucky football.  As for us at KSR, after a summer’s worth of posts analyzing the Kentucky roster and dissecting what little news filtered in, we now get the chance to look ahead to an actual opponent.  This week, we delve into the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

 

THE HEAD MAN:

While his overall life-skills could clearly use some work, Bobby Petrino’s football acumen cannot be rationally challenged.  At both Louisville and Arkansas, Petrino used his high octane offense to elevate two otherwise pedestrian programs to national prominence. In perhaps his most impressive achievement, Petrino led both the Cardinals and the Razorbacks, two programs languishing in relative obscurity at the time of his arrival, to BCS Bowl games.  Now, after a brief hiatus stemming from Bobby’s efforts to turn his life into a Sons of Anarchy episode, Petrino will attempt to perform the same transformation at Western Kentucky.

 

Petrino is a dangerous adversary in any circumstance, but as Kentucky football fans know all too well, he is especially tough in season openers.  In fact, Petrino is a perfect 8-0 in openers in his collegiate coaching career.  Petrino’s head coaching debut took place in Commonwealth Stadium in 2003.  In this opener against the much more experienced Rich Brooks (understatement), Petrino began to earn his reputation both as a master tactician and an ego-maniacal jerk.  Petrino and the Cards held a slim 26-24 lead after three quarters, but scored again early in the fourth to take a 9 point lead.  After stopping Kentucky’s final offensive threat, the Cards had to simply run out the clock to secure the Governor’s  Cup victory.  Instead, with just 6 seconds left, and the game already in hand, Petrino called a timeout to tack-on one final score from the two yard line.  When asked after the game why he would coordinate such a bush league move, Petrino replied that he wanted to “put 40 on them.”     That 2003 game is really a good summary of Petrino as a person and football coach: clearly gifted, but personally flawed.

 

TOPPERS TO WATCH:

 

As of game-time on Saturday, it is likely that the three top pro prospects on the field will all be wearing red.  (I expect that to change by the end of the season, by the way.) Western’s roster includes three players who have all received major attention from NFL scouts.  If Western upsets the Cats again, it will be because of these players.

 

Antonio Andrews: In 2012, this former Kentucky Mr. Football quietly had one of the greatest seasons in the history of college football.  Andrews’ season total of 3161 all purpose yards ranks second in the history of college football, behind only Barry Sanders.  Andrews rushed for 1728 yards and 15 touchdowns.  He torched Kentucky with three touchdowns, and threw the game winning two-point conversion pass as well.  Never offered a scholarship by the Cats despite his 29-0 record and two state championships as quarterback for Ft. Campbell, Andrews is quickly becoming the football equivalent of Chris Lofton for Kentucky fans who wonder what might have been had Andrews worn the blue and white.

 

Andrew Jackson: Jackson is a huge, but active middle linebacker, weighing in at 257 pounds.  Last season, he recorded 122 tackles, to include 17.5 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks.  He is also not bashful.  He was quoted on Wednesday as saying the following about Saturday’s match-up with the Cats: “I don’t care anything about them.  We’re going to handle them on Saturday.”  Jackson also promised that the Toppers were “just going to hit them in the mouth and get it over with.”  Jackson reportedly made similar remarks just prior to facing the British in New Orleans in 1814.

 

Jonathan Dowling: Dowling is one of a few talented transfers on the Western roster.  This big safety (6-3, 198) was a four star prospect out of the state of Florida who began his career as a Gator before transferring to Western.  Dowling recorded 68 tackles last season along with six interceptions.  Interestingly, the Cats were responsible for one-half of that interception total, as Dowling intercepted Max Smith three times last fall.

 

WHY THE CATS WILL PREVAIL:

 

We get it Western fans.  The Toppers beat the Cats in 2012.  Let’s analyze that for a moment, though.  In a game in which Kentucky threw four interceptions, our worst team in two decades lost to your best team ever in overtime on a trick play.  Let that sink in a minute, and think about the likelihood that history repeats itself in 2013.  If that does not satisfy you, here are five other reasons why the Cats will beat the Toppers Saturday night.

 

1. Quarterback Questions

When the Toppers take their first offensive snap, they will turn to junior Brandon Doughty. Doughty has one career start under his belt, and I don’t think it is being overly negative to say it did not go well.  He made it just three plays before tearing his ACL.  Last season, he was the Toppers third string quarterback, and attempted only three passes all season.  That lack of experience will prove costly as Bud, Za’Darius and company introduce themselves to Doughty on Saturday night.

 

2. Square Peg, round hole

As indicated above, Petrino is very good in opening games.  However, this Western team will be attempting a significant transformation in terms of style of play from last season. This may well make initial success difficult, even for as highly regarded an X and O man as Bobby Petrino.  Under Willie Taggart, Western employed a smash-mouth running style Taggart learned as an assistant to Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.  Western ran the ball 60% of the time in 2012.  Though Petrino has had some excellent rushing teams, there is no doubt that he desires a pro-style passing attack.  With a new quarterback, and a seemingly underwhelming crop of receivers, it may take some time before Petrino can successfully transform his program’s offensive identity.  There is historical precedent for this argument as well.  In Petrino’s eight years as a college head coach, only one team really struggled offensively; his 2008 Arkansas Razorbacks.  Much like his current situation at Western, Petrino’s 2008 Arkansas team was attempting to transition from a run-based attack to a pass-based offense with a less than stellar quarterback. In doing so, that Arkansas team actually regressed to a  5-7 record after going 8-5 the previous year under Houston Nutt.  That transitional Arkansas team averaged just 22 points per game compared to Petrino’s career average of 39 per game.  This year’s Hilltoppers may face similar growing pains.

 

3. Vulnerable Defensive Front

Western has a very solid back seven defensively.  In fact, they return all of their starting linebackers and defensive backs.  However, they must replace their entire defensive line.  The starting defensive front will be inexperienced and slight.  Western will start a redshirt freshman at defensive tackle.  The starting defensive ends are 6-1, 233 and 6-2, 230 respectively.  Though Kentucky is not a necessarily a running team, Neal Brown will certainly attempt to take advantage of Kentucky’s huge size advantage at the point of attack.  Last season, Western’s defensive line really controlled the line of scrimmage against Kentucky.  I do not expect that to be the case on Saturday.

 

4. Western is not the 1985 Bears

To hear Western fans talk this off-season, you would think Western Kentucky was on the verge of overtaking Alabama as the dynastic force in college football. While it is true they were likely better than Kentucky in 2012, let’s not get carried away.  Western went to a Bowl Game in 2012, but also lost games to such football powerhouses as Louisiana Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette and Central Michigan.  Would their record have looked much different than Kentucky’s had they played an SEC schedule?

 

5. Karma

Regardless of their self-serving spin about second chances and Bobby’s new-found perspective on life, the Western Kentucky athletics department sold its soul to hire a mercenary coach who has repeatedly proven himself to be utterly devoid of any character.  From calling timeouts to run up the score, to reneging on scholarship offers, to conducting secret airplane runway job interviews, to quitting on an NFL team mid-season, to lying to an employer about an affair with a woman who he helped hire, Petrino has shown his stripes in every conceivable way.  I truly do not believe that the football gods will permit him to parlay his latest misdeed into a triumphant victory over the Cats.

 

See you in Nashville.  Go Cats.

Article written by Duncan Cavanah

23 responses to “Western Kentucky Breakdown: Previewing the Toppers”

  1. Jon

    Awesome post, well done.

  2. cracka

    good article … didn’t know their starting d line is gone

    i can’t believe they literally have a red hill costume for somebody to wear … i guess that’s what that is

  3. Roberto Gomez

    When your football team is 2-10 and your basketball team is a first round NIT loser, you become a very good writer of fiction

  4. Blue Gray

    The Battle of New Orleans was actually fought on January 8th, 1815.

  5. kadizkat

    Two things, Duncan, very good job! Second, Roberto Gomez, isn’t there a web site for ‘lilbrother? #Jealous #KentuckyEffect

  6. YouMadBro

    Roberto, how many basketball and football national championships does your team have? I’m gonna go ahead and predict that UK has more basketball championships than your team and the same amount of football national championships as your team. Am I correct?

  7. Beat Bobby P

    We have to win, wait, we are going to win!

    We are going to win big. My crystal ball has the Cats 3-0 headed into the Florida game!

    CATS

  8. Mc

    Roberto-
    If you’re a UL fan, Pitino has taken them to 2 NIT’s since taking over. Do you feel better because he made it past the first round of the NIT? Also, I’m sure you’d be willing to look at UL’s football history as well? I’m sure their greatness will blow you away. UL fans crack me up. After 1 good year in sports they think they’ve established legitimacy. It takes time to establish legitimacy. They’re not there yet.

  9. Jim

    An athletic dept selling its soul to hire a coach. Sounds familiar

  10. WRB

    Yes it does Jim. Sounds like turtleneck Tom hiring of Pinto Bean.

  11. What Karma

    What are you people talking about? Did you all read the same article that I did? Kentucky will prevail because of Karma, Western is not the 1985 bears, Vulnerable Defensive Front, and Quarterback Questions? Really? Newton, what?

    This is most absurd thing I have ever read on this website (and that’s saying a lot). The Robert Morris Fighting Morris’s are better at Football than UK, new coach or not.

  12. What Karma

    Oh, and what happened to Kige Ramsey on the bottom of the homepage?

  13. Roberto Gomezes MAMA

    My little boy only comes out of the basement to get his hot pockets and strawberry quick. He and What Karma have been doing that since they were 34. Waters wet, skys blue, DUH-vile sucks and Western does too.

  14. HeyWhatKarma

    What Karma…correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t UK football have more wins over UofL football than UofL does over UK? same goes for basketball, right?

  15. What Karma

    I love stalking UK. I read this site several times a day, every day. Then I try to sound superior by making comments saying that UK sucks. I forget that you all have beaten my team more than we’ve beaten you all. But hey, I’m a Tard and that’s what we do. We just pester big brother all day long! Dang mom, I know I’m late for my nap! Stop yelling at me, I promise I’m signing off now! Gotta go, big bro. I’ll be back in 2 hours to swing from your jocks some more!

  16. What Karma

    You know what’s funny? No one has decided to address what I wrote earlier…take the blue tinted glasses off and come back to reality.

  17. Dan

    What is there to address? You wrote each subtitle with a question mark after it then said that it’s absurd, made a joke about a QB who doesn’t even play at Kentucky anymore, and said that Robert Morris’ basketball team could beat our football team. If you made any points, then I’m sure we’d have counterpoints. If you’re gonna talk trash, at least say something that’s backed up with evidence.

  18. Answers to your points

    What are you people talking about? The article
    Did you all read the same article that I did? Yes
    Kentucky will prevail because of Karma, Western is not the 1985 bears, Vulnerable Defensive Front, and Quarterback Questions? That is not a coherent question
    Really? Yes, I am sure
    Newton, what? Another incoherent question

    Ya happy?

  19. Rob

    Speaking of in-state mediocrity, Deadspin has a great profile of the top-25. Louisville is my favorite, and includes the line “If the school were renamed The University of Phoenix II presented by ESPN as told to Papa John, it would be more accurate.”

  20. Rob
  21. Yep

    Andrew Jackson is a beast. There is an outstanding chance that he’ll knock 1 or 2 of our players unconscious during the game. He’s that much of bad ass. I’m pretty sure Shane Boyd still has the shivers from the hit he took last year. Expect a good game. WKU is far more physical than we are, that isn’t going to change in one year or just because we have a new coach. Soft players are always going to be soft players. You don’t turn it on like a light switch. Stoops has even commented about the lack of physicality in camp. But, UK is the deeper team, they’ll wear Western down in the end and win by a touchdown.

  22. Big Blue John

    Extremely difficult for me to read all things on my I-Phone because everything is too little! I have been checking in on KSR 15 to 20 times each day but since the changs I’m checking in very little and regret it when I do.

  23. What Karma

    Look who was right…