Remember back in Western Kentucky’s season opener when it took the Hilltoppers nearly three full quarters to reach the endzone versus Vanderbilt?
That stagnant phase has been all but washed away and replaced with the electrifying offense we’re use to witnessing as the hottest offense in the country resides from the Conference USA.
Five straight weeks with five or more scores and 54.3 points per game the previous three within that sample size, the offense has clearly clicked into second gear, regaining a similar pulse from 2014 that propelled the core to one of the best in the country.
Who said injuries were going to slow this team down?
The bizarre part is that the stellar efficiency has all come without running back Leon Allen, who suffered a season-ending injury back in Week 2 when Western Kentucky hosted conference rival, Louisiana Tech.
Since then it’s been 6”1’ sophomore D’Andre Ferby who’s received the bulk of the handoffs, that is, when head coach Jeff Brohm opts to revert to the ground game. When your quarterback in Brandon Doughty tops the nation in completion percentage (74.7%) and is second in yards (2,359), snapping the ball and letting your skill players run wild becomes second nature.
And it’s been merely a cakewalk for Doughty as the season’s progressed.
Fifteen touchdown passes to just one turnover in the recent three weeks, it’s all beginning to look like 2014 once more. Now that the receiving corps has rejuvenated back to 100 percent, it’s much of the same with the consistent balance of pass catchers.
Tight end Tyler Higbee and wide receiver Taywan Taylor enjoyed quick starts to open up 2015. Taylor in fact sits at No. 4 in terms of receiving yards which initially appears comical considering the number of players that touch the ball in the Hilltoppers’ offense.
A hamstring setback to the 2014 leading receiver in Jared Dangerfield forced Brohm to shift the packages and fiddle with the scheme early in the season, but the senior has hopped into the offensive pleasantry with 26 catches and 284 yards since the Hilltoppers ponied up. Dangerfield’s also notched a score in three consecutive games, after scoring 11 touchdowns as a junior last season.
The 2014 theme was sporadic contribution from dark horse characters and the motif continues as we head into Week 7. Last year was the outbreak from wide receivers Antwane Grant and Willie McNeal. So far the X-factor has been Nicholas Norris, a wideout who was hauled into the offensive mix last year as well.
Although Taylor is Doughty’s primary weapon when the time calls for deep balls, Norris is quietly filling those shoes with 20.2 yards per reception in 2015. He’s also matched last season’s catching clip with 22 in six total weeks.
It’d also be a shame not to dish praise to special teams connoisseur Kylen Towner. Surely Brandon Doughty doesn’t mind driving the length of the field—with ease—en route to the Hilltoppers scoring. It’s a walk in the park, however, when the kickoff return team is setting things up with modest field position. Towner’s averaging 30.6 yards per return on kickoff duties and 11.3 yards per return when the opposition is punting away.
As for future looks the upcoming schedule for Western Kentucky is a rather unique blend of competition.
Meeting with North Texas should spring the offense further into its comfort zone before traveling to Baton Rouge to take on Louisiana State. Given that a loss to the SEC wouldn’t damage its conference report card, Western Kentucky will look to keep the motor chugging along versus Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. Then awaits the defending conference champs in Marshall, whom the Hilltoppers overcame last season in Huntington. With implications aplenty orbiting around that showdown, perhaps that storyline will be a topic for the coming weeks.
Three full quarters is all it took for the Western Kentucky to rise and shine again on offense. For upcoming defenses, perhaps a ‘Get Well Soon’ card is in the works.