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October 14, 2009

Defense Has To Get To The QB

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It's been typical to see opposing quarterbacks standing tall in the pocket and easily going through all their reads.

Why not, when WKU's defense has been unable to force pressure to hurry things up for the quarterback. The Toppers are tied with Akron for the fewest sacks in the nation, two through five games. They also sit last in giving up third down conversions, at 55 percent.

Coach David Elson gave a list of what the three general areas on defense have to do to better that ranking and in turn help get WKU in the win column.

"We've gotta win our gaps up front, we've gotta come off the ball better and our inside linebackers have gotta get down-hill more, play down hill," Elson said. "Our outside linebackers have to be more physical and our secondary has to tackle better."

Teams have also run roughshod on the ground against the Toppers. Florida International tallied 206 yards, but overall it's been another low. WKU has given up 281 yards a game, by 19 yards the worst in FBS.

"The bottom line, we've gotta stop the run better," senior linebacker Taurean Smith said. "We can't let a team come in our house and run over 200 yards. We know teams are gonna try to run the ball on us, because they think we're small up front, but when our team goes in there, we're gonna be physical. The front seven, we're gonna be physical and we're gonna come and hit teams in the mouth."

Elson hinted on Monday that things would be changed up a little in practice. In two days, of full practice, it's been a little more of matching the top defense against the top offense.

"Just more good on good, our ones against ones," Elson said. "We've done some more team pass together to work on our pass protection. It's getting those other guys in there to simulate and get them in that environment."

This week's opponent, Louisiana-Lafayette has an efficient quarterback in Chris Masson who hasn't thrown for huge numbers, but has the ability for a breakout game through the air. The Toppers are determined not to let that big game happen again.

"We've got some pass stunts, a couple of new things that they probably haven't seen on film," sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin said. "We've got a couple of things in there. I've got a good feeling about it. We'll get back there. The quarterback's pretty athletic, but we'll keep him contained."

Not that there hasn't been some already, but WKU might also use its blitz packages a little more as well. That alone however won't cure the defensive ills.

"Blitzing, it can be the answer, but not for us," Smith said. "We've gotta play more of a zone coverage to help us out, to stop the pass. Then our corners have to lock down if we do blitz. In our zone, we've just gotta have our corners play their zone coverage tighter and help the d-line out where they can get to the quarterback."

There's no where to go but up for the Toppers, but perhaps more so on defense. Clendenin said that after this week, he and his teammates are confident that things will improve. But will the pressure and ability to break through the line be there?

"We're gonna try to play in their backfield," he said. "We're not too much gonna stress our gaps this week, we just wanna get off and play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. That's gonna give us an edge. I was watching LSU film and that's what they was doing. They were playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage and everything pretty much worked out once you get back there. We've gotta get back there."


Check Out InsideHilltopperSports.com's insider's only look at WKU's Wednesday practice, including a full, in-depth injury report.



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