There's a big opportunity for the Toppers this week, not only to get their first win, but to claim a few bragging rights as well at Middle Tennessee. After a huge start to the season, with wins over Memphis and Maryland, the Blue Raiders have dropped two in a row. Each week, InsideHilltopperSports.com will compile the three biggest keys on each side of the ball to keep WKU in the game:
Get something going downfield: Coach David Elson said earlier this week that this area will have to improve in order for the offense to produce. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes has the arm strength, but hasn't quite gotten the timing down. This week, he and his receivers worked on timing and the results were good. That'll have to carry over to tomorrow.
Keep feeding the tight ends: While the receivers have been up and down in their production, the one area that's been steady is the tight ends. Jakes formed a good chemistry with redshirt freshman Jack Doyle against Navy and Florida International, but Doyle will be out for the second game in a row tomorrow. But last week, sophomore Tristan Jones and junior Rod Johnson stepped up, Johnson getting a touchdown. Jakes can't lose sight of that successful target.
Get good chunks of yards on first down: The Toppers have converted a paltry 29 percent of their third downs. But a lot of that has been because WKU has put itself in a good amount of third and longs. The Toppers have to be aggressive beginning on first down, to get to more manageable situations on third down.
Make more stops on first and second downs: Where the offense has to get yards here, the defense equally needs to get get big stops. The Toppers are the worst in FBS at giving up third down conversions, but conversely, they've faced third and short yardage too many times. WKU has to get the stops early and be the aggressor.
Know where junior quarterback Dwight Dasher is at all times: Dasher is the main cog for the offense. It's not hard to lose the guy receiving most snaps, but it's what he does after the snap that makes him so dangerous. He has the athleticism to get most anywhere with the ball. The linebackers and secondary will have to get some type of containment, or he could have a breakout day.
Don't let MTSU get things going deep: Dasher is such a threat also, because he can not only run, but has the arm to throw for big yards. While the Toppers haven't done horrible in short passes, they've given up far too many big plays, where a lot of the opposing passing yards have come from. Another reason why the safeties have so many tackles, including sophomore Mark Santoro's team-high 59 tackles. The DBs will have to stick to their assignments and not let the receivers get loose for too many big gainers.
After the game, catch InsideHilltopperSports.com's extensive post-game, with a full game wrap and audio from coach David Elson