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Keys to the Game: What Western Kentucky Must Do to Beat Bowling Green

The Hilltoppers open their debut season with a tough matchup - a visit from reigning MAC champions Bowling Green. What must WKU do to start the year with a win?

Leon Allen busting out.
Leon Allen busting out.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams are entering the season with some key losses on both sides of the ball, while the Falcons have a new coach who favors an up-tempo passing attack.

  • "Give me the damn ball!" - the prodigious Antonio Andrews is gone, and the Hilltoppers will find it hard to replace his running and receiving skills. This year, however, they may not need to. Quarterback Brandon Doughty and a plethora of good receivers will provide a passing attack the Hilltoppers are less accustomed to, but they need to move the ball on the ground. Step forward Leon Allen, who ran for 357 yards and 5 TDs in reserve duty last season. He's a big (235 pounds), powerful runner, who can also do some damage at the second level, and he's not a bad receiver either (22 catches). The Hilltoppers return three starters from an offensive line that knocked heads with Kentucky and Tennessee and looked okay, so they can play in CUSA. Doughty, on the other hand, has looked less than comfortable when he needed to throw, so opening up the play-action with a solid running game will make a big difference.
  • Shutdown corner - Cam Thomas was great last season, breaking up 10 passes and intercepting 5, despite not being tested regularly. Bowling Green don't look to have a receiver who can threaten Thomas. Yay! The rest of the secondary is a different matter, with three new starters. Prince Charles Iworah will line up opposite Thomas. He's a redshirt junior who played on special teams, and a little in the defensive backfield. He made 10 tackles, but he lacks great experience, which could be a problem against a fast-paced aerial attack like the Falcons. The safeties will be Ricardo Singh and Marcus Ward. Singh has a similar track record to Iworah, while Ward started a few games as a freshman last year, making 13 tackles and an interception. Can this group play like salty vets, because Thomas can't cover everyone? Or can he?
  • Welcome to Sackville - a green secondary against an offense that will throw the ball as often as they breathe? Sounds like the game's already over for the Hilltoppers. But, wait! There is one small hope for WKU - gettting after the passer. Here's the problem though - Western Kentucky managed a mediocre 26 sacks last season, and the top three sackers are gone. That means someone, probably defensive end Gavin Rocker, needs to step up. He's a decent speed rusher, but he needs more than the 2 sacks he had last season. Granted, having a great pass rush doesn't necessarily equate to sacks, but keeping the Falcons in long-distance situations takes them out of their comfort zone. The tackles, Bryan Shorter and Devante Terrell, are quick and get some push inside. The other end will TJ Smith, who played a little last season and had half a sack.