Coming off a strong win against Navy, WKU head coach Jeff Brohm's squad will be looking to take down C-USA opponent UAB on Saturday. Western Kentucky, despite their 2-2 record, have shown us that they have very high potential this season. Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty is 2nd in the nation (FBS) in passing yards; he's thrown for 1,846 yards in Western Kentucky's four contests, along with 14 touchdowns (to only 3 interceptions).
The only thing holding Western Kentucky down this year at times has been its young defense that has given up 37.5 points to its opponent on average this season. WKU defensive coordinator Nick Holt had to like the improvement in WKU's last game (a win against Navy), as his defense continuously gave Brandon Doughty & the offense a chance to win the game.
1.) Defense, Defense, and More Defense - WKU's shaky defense has shown that it can hunker down when it needs to, and will need to continue to improve if the Hilltoppers want to be successful this season. The young defensive line will have its hands full with UAB's dynamic backfield that features Jordan Howard and D.J. Vinson, who have combined for 10 touchdowns this season.
2.) Get in a Rhythm...Fast - Western Kentucky's explosive offense struggled to get going last week against Navy, scoring only three points in the first quarter. The Hilltoppers defense hasn't shown it can be fully relied on, so Jeff Brohm will want to get his quarterback going early in the ballgame. Expect the Hilltoppers to throw the ball often and early in Saturday's game, along with some running out of the shotgun.
3.) Getting Anthony "Ace" Wales Involved - Western Kentucky (second-string) running-back Anthony "Ace" Wales is explosive. The guy can fly. Jeff Brohm loves to get the Louisville native involved in the offense, and it should open up a lot for offensive coordinator Tyson Helton if he can get players like Wales involved. Wales has shown that he can be productive so far this season, but his potential to grow in the offense is much larger than his numbers so far (151 all-purpose yards, 1 TD)
After a fast start at UAB, new head coach Bill Clark faces a new challenge this week. UAB opened the season steam rolling in-state rivals Troy & Alabama A&M. In between those games the Blazers played possibly their best game on the road against Mississippi State. This past Saturday most thought the Blazers would handle struggling FIU at Legion Field; however, the Panthers had other plans and walked out with a 34-20 win in the C-USA opener for both teams. Now, Clark must rally his team to put this disappointment behind them as they go on the road to play Western Kentucky.
UAB doesn’t have to look far to see why they lost against FIU and what they must improve upon to have a better result this Saturday against the Hilltoppers. Those items are highlighted below in the Blazers’ five keys to success this weekend.
1.) Turnovers - UAB had six turnovers against FIU, two of which were pick sixes. The Blazers also fumbled away a kickoff return that turned into three more points. That was just what FIU needed with their struggling offense and underrated defense. This week the Blazers cannot afford to give points and possessions away against a high octane Western Kentucky offense.
2.) Improved quarterback play - Junior Cody Clements and Freshman Jeremiah Briscoe both would like to forget last Saturday against FIU. Clements finished with 188 yards 1 TD and 2 INTs along with a rush TD. Clements did not look like the player UAB fans were use to from the first three games as he never really settled in. Briscoe was only 2 of 5 and had two interceptions as well. Briscoe went from throwing perfect deep balls against Mississippi State to having as many interceptions as completions against FIU. The Blazers are going to have to get better days from their QB’s to go along with their steady run game if they hope to keep pace with the Hilltoppers.
3.) Kennard Bachman- The Blazer tight end has looked like an NFL quality player when given the opportunity this year, but was largely unseen against FIU. Bachman only had 3 catches for 15 yards. Gerald Everett added two catches and a TD as the other tight end but UAB has to get the ball in Bachman’s hands early and often to reestablish better quarterback play.
4.) Continued Defensive Improvement- While UAB did lose, the Blazer defense continued to show improvement over the anemic units of the past several seasons. When you consider that 17 points were handed directly to the Panthers off turnovers the defense really played better than it seemed overall. The Blazers really only gave up two big plays defensively all game. UAB will have to show continued improvement and limit big plays at WKU again this week for a chance to steal a road victory.
5.) Coaching- How will Bill Clark and his staff react to their first bad loss? The Blazers were clearly out game planned by Ron Turner and FIU this past Saturday. Arguably it was the only time a Blazer opponent has been better prepared all season. UAB still doesn’t have the pedigree to win games they are not prepared for. Saturday’s match up comes against former UAB offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm who is now the head man for the Hilltoppers. His staff includes former Blazer coaches Tyson Helton, Bryan Ellis, and even former UAB head coach Neil Callaway. So Western Kentucky will have a solid working knowledge of many of the current Blazers. How will Clark and his staff react and prepare their team for this C-USA road challenge?