Listen to full media day audio (courtesy of WKUSports.com):
Clint Bowen, Mike Sanford
Jared Clendenin, Jack Doyle, Thomas Majors
Tag Archives: Jack Doyle
Listen to full media day audio (courtesy of WKUSports.com):
The Toppers held their first official scrimmage of the spring season today.
As Head Coach Willie Taggart said they would do, the team ran strictly out of situations rather than just running regular plays.
The offense got off to a very slow start, and the struggles continued for much of the first half of the scrimmage.
Junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa and junior quarterback Tyler Bruce split time under center and were continuously being pressured by the defense.
About midway through the scrimmage, former Western football coach Jimmy Feix spoke to the team during one of their breaks and was greeted with a loud applause and standing ovation.
In the second half of the scrimmage, the Toppers put together eight touchdowns in 12 plays, highlighted by a 96-yard touchdown run by junior running back Braxston Miller and three touchdowns from redshirt freshman wide receiver Willie McNeal. Bruce connected with Miller for a 15-yard touchdown pass as well, which was Miller’s third score of the day.
Taggart said he was happy with how his team looked on both sides of the ball, despite the slow start from the offense.
“The coaches weren’t out there telling them what to do and guys were over-thinking things,” Taggart said. “But it was good to see how our guys would do when we’re not out there and see how they respond.”
He said the goal was simply to get his players to think about what they need to do in certain situations, whether it’s third and long, third and medium, or first and ten.
But Saturday was really the first time since spring practice started that the team had a chance to try out their new plays in a game situation.
Sophomore tight end Jack Doyle said the first week was mentally tough on the players because they were learning so many new plays, but that Saturday was “fun” because they could finally get on the field and play.
Junior defensive lineman Jared Clendenin also said it was good for the team to get on the field and play at a game-like tempo.
“We had a lot of just thud temp practices,” he said. “We can’t really get a good look with thud tempo. We like to tackle and take them to the ground, so it felt pretty good to do that.”
Doyle also said the team is excited about the new West Coast offense that’s been installed under Taggart.
“Anybody could be the playmaker,” he said. “We saw Willie McNeal make a ton of plays today. It’s not just Bobby Rainey or someone else, because anyone can step up and make plays in this offense.”
Clendenin said today’s scrimmage was a good way to measure how much the team has improved since day one, saying the team has made “major” progress since then.
-Just got back from the WKU football Monday Media Luncheon–F.Y.I., leftovers from Saturday’s media dinner as the last two lunches are a sign of a down economy–and we got a few interesting thoughts and insights into both the Toppers 30-22 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette and the upcoming game at Middle Tennessee State from head coach David Elson, redshirt sophomore running back Bobby Rainey and redshirt junior Orlando Misaalefua.
Rainey and the offense are looking to capitalize on one of their most balanced games of the season, racking up 308 yards of offense–141 passing, 167 rushing–against ULL. The word from Rainey was that the offense had bright spots, but that the sour notes were more of a point of emphasis and the offense must start to capitalize on every possession.
“We got better in some areas and there are some areas we didn’t get better at,” Rainey said. “We got to convert and capitalize on every possession to keep the defense off the field.”
Misaalefua gave a defensive perspective that it’s the frustration has mounted with the team not being able to get third down stops, especially in crucial, late-game situations. Louisiana-Lafayette was able to get two consecutive third downs late in the game to prevent WKU from getting the ball back with a chance to tie on Saturday. Doing so against Sun Belt Conference opponents adds to the frustration.
“We have to get third down stops,” Misaalefua said. “We have to get off the field and so far we’ve been improving on that. And we have to get, defensive backs have got to get interceptions. Linebackers, we’ve got to get stops. D-Lineman, we’ve got to gush the quarterback, we’ve just got to play football.”
Things may get slightly easier against a Middle Tennessee team that is currently 30% (31-for-102) on the season on third down.
Elson shared the sentiment of Misaalefua, saying that just a handful of plays have been the difference in some of the games this season.
“Just different little things,” Elson said. “The touchdown in the endzone, (senior defensive back) Jihad (Morris) is right there. We’re close, and you know so, we want to be encouraged and motivated by that because it does get frustrating that you’re not doing enough to get into the win column. It’s a combination of ‘hey, we’ve obviously got some areas where we’ve got to improve’ but also a message of ‘hey, we’re close and we’ve played better in areas’ the decision making, the penalties were as good as they’ve been all year.”
WKU committed a season low two penalties for 15 yards.
Many are billing this game as a rivalry game from a fan perspective, and Elson said while agreeing with that, the game itself is in it’s years of rebuilding from a rivalry standpoint. MTSU coach Rick Stockstill stated before last seasons’s game that he doesn’t view it as a rivalry.
“It’s a fans thing,” Elson said. “His point was, and I totally understand where he’s coming from, you prepare for this game like you do any other game. That’s exactly the way we approach it. But from a historical standpoint and fans perspective , yea, it’s a rivalry, because of the geography and the (Ohio Valley Conference days).”
With the team getting so close in so many games–two of the last three games have been one-possession games in the second half–Elson said that as the season wears on, getting close isn’t going to be enough.
Nothing major on the injury front. Wide receiver Dustin Boyer has already been listed as out against for MTSU with a knee injury. Redshirt freshman tight end Jack Doyle, the team’s leader in receptions and yardage, is listed as day-to-day with nerve damage in his shoulder that Elson said just needs “rest and rehab”.
Junior offensive lineman Preston King, who left Saturday’s game and didn’t return, is still battling an ankle injury and is also a wait-and-see case. Redshirt junior wide receiver Quinterrance Cooper will be evaluated this week in regards to his concussion. He missed last game with the injury.
- Navy begins the second quarter with control of the ball. The Midshipmen have been all ground game today, amassing 146 yards rushing without throwing a single pass in the first quarter.
- The Hilltoppers failed to capitalize on a key opportunity in the first quarter, as freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes botched a snap on Navy’s 1-yard line to turn the ball over to the Midshipmen. Western marched 69 yards on the drive, capped by a 32-yard connection from Jakes to redshirt freshman Jack Doyle.
- The Midshipmen first got on the board with an eight-play, 65-yd first drive, capped by a 29-yard keeper by quarterback Ricky Dobbs for a touchdown with 11:05 left in the quarter.
- Jakes got his first career start in place of injured senior quarterback Brandon Smith and went 3 for 3 for 53 yards on Western’s first drive.
Western came into practice last week looking to up the physicality after a 63-7 blowout loss at Tennessee. The Toppers came out fired up Saturday night for South Florida, but recorded 13 penalties for 124 yards—10 in the first half alone.
Junior offensive lineman Preston King said practice this week is about keeping the effort level up and the penalty yards down.
“We’re still playing physical, but being smart while playing physical,” King said.
Coach David Elson said he talked about the penalties to his team when looking over Saturday’s game film and said that he’s “confident that it will be corrected.”
Elson preached the same message as King — that Western needs to play smarter this Saturday against Central Arkansas.
“A lot of it had to do with effort,” Elson said. “We were just playing that hard and couldn’t let up, but we’ve got to learn to do that. We need to learn how to play at a really high intensity level but under control to where those things don’t happen.”
Also, after sitting out of Tuesday’s practice, freshman tight end Jack Doyle, senior center Cody Hughes, junior lineman Derrick Elder and sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin all returned to the field on Wednesday. Senior receiver Jake Gaebler continues to nurse a pulled hamstring.
Last week it was the flu. This week, the injury bug is biting Western’s football team.
The questionable list for Saturday’s game against Central Arkansas grew longer following another physical Tuesday practice back from the Toppers’ latest loss to South Florida.
Senior wide receiver Jake Gaebler is nursing a hamstring, senior center Cody Hughes is still fighting a bruised shin and head coach David Elson said freshman tight end Jack Doyle has a hip flexor. All were held out of Tuesday’s practice.
Sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin failed to leave the practice field under his own power, toting a bag of ice on his arm and junior offensive lineman Derrick Elder went down with just a few minutes left in practice and didn’t return.
I’ll be back tomorrow or Thursday with updates on the injuries–whenever Elson gives an official update–as well as how they’ll affect playing time in this Saturday’s game against Central Arkansas.