Knowing the Enemy
Conference: Conference USA
Record: 6-1 overall, 6-0 conference
Pass. It is what one thinks of when thinking about Western Kentucky. Pass. The Hilltoppers come to Tiger Stadium on homecoming weekend executing one thing very well, the pass.
Western Kentucky is third in the nation in passing offense, averaging 407 yards per game through the air. WKU is ninth in the nation in total offense. They average 535 yards per contest in total offense, which means over 75 percent of their offense is generated by the pass. As a team the Hilltoppers have completed 75 percent of attempted passes on the season. They have attempted 275 passes and completed 205 of them, which leads the country. It seems unreal on any level for a team to accomplish this, but so far, they have done it. They average 44 points per game. They have passed for 113 first downs this year. Only three other teams have passed for more first downs. They are second in the land in passing efficiency, with 25 passing touchdowns. Baylor and TCU are the other teams with more TDs through the air. They have 2850 passing yards, have thrown the ball 275 times on the season, and have only four interceptions. When thinking of WKU, think pass.
The quarterback for WKU is a sixth year graduate student named Brandon Doughty. He is second in the country with 2709 passing yards. He has thrown for 24 touchdowns while being intercepted four times. Doughty averages 387 passing yards per game which is third in the country. Doughty is fifth in the nation in total offense.
He threw for 209 yards in his team’s opening season win over Vanderbilt. In the game two win against Louisiana Tech he threw for 441 yards and a touchdown. In game three, the team’s only lost, to Indiana, Doughty passed for 484 yards and three touchdowns. In game four against Miami of Ohio, Doughty passed for 457 yards and six touchdowns, with four TD passes in the first half. In game five at Rice, he threw for 409 yards with four first half TDs in his team’s victory. In this game Doughty moved into the all-time top 100 in the NCAA in passing yards. In the sixth game and win against Middle Tennessee State, he threw for 359 yards and one touchdown. In game seven at North Texas State he threw for 350 yards and four TDs.
His favorite target is junior Taywan Taylor, who is fourth in the country in receptions. Taylor has 825 yards with 45 receptions. He has caught 10 touchdowns. Taylor is eighth in the country in receiving yards per game, averaging 117.9 per game.
Of course, one receiver does not account for those huge amounts of yards. Juniors Jared Dangerfield and Nicholas Norris have over 400 yards each in receptions on the season. Norris averages 18 yards per catch, and Dangerfield averages 11 yards per grab. Senior tight end Tyler Higbee has 463 yards in receptions on the season with a 14.9 per catch average.
Note: Two games ago, redshirt junior running back Anthony Wales returned healthy for the first time all season. He rushed for 111 yards against Middle Tennessee State, and then had 259 all-purpose yards in the last game against North Texas State, with 193 on the ground. In the last two games he almost eclipsed what WKU’s leading rusher had accomplished in the first five games.
The Hilltoppers have four returning starters on the offensive line. Three are Junior left tackle Forrest Lamp with 22 straight starts, and left guard Brandon Ray along with junior right tackle Darrell Williams, a two year starter.
The defense plays just to give the offense a rest. They are not very good.
On defense WKU has 19 players with at least one tackle for a loss, tfls, on the season. They have ten players with at least 20 tackles. This means they either have a lot of good players, or a lot of players who cannot stop anybody, probably the latter.
Sophomore linebacker T.J. McCollum and senior linebacker Nick Holt lead the team in tackles. McCollum has 54 tackles, 32 unassisted, and Holt has 46 stops, 27 solos for the Hilltoppers. McCollum has 4.5 tfls and Holt has 3.5 for the season.
Branden Leston and Marcus Ward are two big defensive backs who weigh over 200 pounds and are the third and fourth leading tacklers on the team.
Western Kentucky is a good offensive team, by Conference USA standards, very good. However, by SEC standards they are an unknown factor. They are better than McNeese State and Eastern Michigan, two of the Purple and Gold’s prior non-conference opponents. The last thing LSU wants to see, is for the game to become a shootout. WKU may not be the typical homecoming patsy. The Tigers will find out Saturday night.