The Toppers are looking to finally get in the win column as the host FCS-member Central Arkansas, tomorrow with a 6:00 PM CT kickoff. The Bears had a bye week after nearly upsetting Hawaii, while the Toppers are coming off a loss to South Florida that saw a number of improvements. Each week, InsideHilltopperSports.com will compile the three biggest keys on each side of the ball to come out on top:
Get A Balanced Running Game Going: With sophomore Bobby Rainey handling the punt and kickoff return duties, it'll be important for senior running backs Tyrell Hayden and Marell Booker to produce to spell Rainey. The sophomore is expected to get a good dose of carries and is the likely starter.
Get The Passing Game Going: Senior quarterback Brandon Smith won't last the duration of the season if he keeps taking hits like he has the past two weeks running the ball. But Smith hasn't had too many options passing. Last week, he carried 21 times for 105 yards. While he'll still scramble, opponents will stack the box if WKU can't get a passing threat going.
Someone Will Have To Step Up For Injured Wide Receiver Jake Gaebler: Gaebler hasn't gotten many opportunities the past two games, with just three catches for 11 yards, but he's arguably still the Toppers' best receiver. One of the younger receivers will have to produce, likely junior Quinterrance Cooper or sophomore Derrius Brooks. But look for the other receivers to get opportunities as well.
Welcome Back, Ryan Beard: The sophomore safety returns after a two-game suspension for violating team rules and will most likely start. He'll be needed to make an instant impact in the secondary. Beard will be a huge key in coverage and could blitz in certain situations.
Be Ready For A Balanced Attack: Central Arkansas hasn't shown any favoritism to either running or passing over the other. Instead, they've tried to remain balanced. It's this type of offense that can move the chains and sustain long drives.
Make More Stops On Third Down: Granted, Central Arkansas is neither Tennessee or South Florida, but the latter two combined for 15 of 22 on third downs, leading to longer drives and getting the defense tired sooner. WKU will have to get some stops. Even if the Bears don't have the offense of the Bulls, if they're able to convert third downs, they'll be able to wear out the Toppers' D.
After the game, catch InsideHilltopperSports.com's extensive post-game, with a full game wrap and audio from coach David Elson