An Early Look at Western Kentucky – From the Bird’s Nest
In the last two meetings, Western Kentucky has simply kicked the Cajuns' butt.
On both sides of the football.
Is it payback this Saturday? Or is it more of the same.
WKU (6-4, 3-3) comes to Cajun Field on Saturday looking to make it three in a row over the Cajuns. Two years ago, they broke a 26-game losing streak that ruined the Cajuns' homecoming and probably sealed the fate of former head coach Rickey Bustle.
Last year, the Cajuns lost 42-23, which broke an 18-game home losing streak for the Hilltoppers. Both games had a couple of things in common. One, the Cajuns couldn't stop Bobby Rainey, which wasn't a shock since no one else could stop him, either. But the other common denominator has been a surprise: Kawuan Jakes, who was a pretty pedestrian quarterback the last two years, looked like Aaron Rodgers against the Cajuns.
This year, Antoine Andrews, Rainey's replacement at running back, leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game (231.2). His 1,141 yards rushing ranks eleventh in Hilltoppers' single season history with two games, plus a possible bowl game, remaining. Andrews can move ahead of Rod (He Hate Me) Smart into tenth place with another 108 yards.
Jakes has been anything but pedestrian this year. The Senior ranks in the top 20 in the nation in passing efficiency (155.70) and completion percentage (67.2) and is 23rd in passing touchdowns (20). His tight end, Jack Doyle, is a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award and is averaging over four catches per game.
So, why has this team struggled during the last four weeks?
Have the Hilltoppers not recovered from blowing a three touchdown lead at home against Louisiana-Monroe? The coaches say no. But there's no question the Toppers haven't been the same team on offense. Jakes has thrown six interceptions in the last four games, and the Hilltoppers have seen what happens when you're on the other side of the turnover battle. WKU has a turnover margin in their three conference losses of -6.
The other statistic that could be telling is WKU's decline in success running the football. In the last four games, the Hilltoppers have run it 150 times for 576 yards. That's just 3.4 yards per carry. That has led some in Bowling Green to speculate Andrews might be wearing down as the season winds down.
Defensively, linebacker Andrew Jackson is one of the best linebackers in the league. He made life miserable for the Cajuns last year. He'd probably be the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year award if it weren't for one of his own teammates. Defensive End Quanterus Smith (6-5, 249) leads the nation in sacks with 13.5.
This, frankly, hasn't been a good matchup for the Cajuns the last two years, especially from a physicality standpoint. But Louisiana played a physical team and went toe-to-toe with them last week so they certainly know what they're getting into.
Since the series the last two years has been about breaking streaks, here's a note for you.
Western Kentucky has won seven conference games in a row away from home.