The Hilltoppers face the Sun Belt Conference leader Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
Monday, October 17
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Business has certainly picked up for the Hilltoppers.
After losing 44-16 at home to FCS Indiana State, the Tops have won two of their last three and are a booth review away from a 3-0 record in the Sun Belt. Now suddenly, WKU is a Homecoming victory away from becoming a legit contender to win the conference. Who saw this coming?
I asked head coach Willie Taggart on Monday if the team could eventually look back to the Indiana State game as a turning point in the season. The Tops could have easily packed it in and waved the white flag. But to their credit, they did just the opposite.
"We we hoping that it would be," said Taggart. "We were banking on it to be (a turning point) because it was a bad time for our program and everything we were trying to build. I think it was good for our football team toward coming together and believing in each other more than anything. That was a bad game for us as a team and I think after that, guys started to care for one another more than they had been and play for each other more than what they had been. And understanding that the way they play is a gift to their teammates."
Let's press the pause button for just a moment though. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but this is the same program that has lost 18 consecutive games at home, eight of those under Taggart. There is no doubt in my mind that the pressure of ending such a streak is in their heads. It is not a lack of desire. Quite the contrary, I think the desire is so strong it affects how they play. The Hilltoppers must find a way to get past that if they want to contend for a Sun Belt crown, this year or any year.
This week the Hilltoppers welcome Louisiana-Lafayette into Houchens Smith Stadium. The Cajuns are not the same team, however, WKU defeated 54-21 last season to break its 26-game losing streak. Louisiana is 6-1 on the year, 4-0 in the Sun Belt. You can argue the hardest part of the Cajuns' schedule is over, already picking up wins over FIU and Troy. The Cajuns also have to be the surprise the of the league considering they were picked to finish last.
"They are a very, very, very, very, very good football team," said Taggart. "Probably the best team we have played this year and that's counting everybody we have played."
The Hilltoppers proved last year and so far this year they can compete with anyone in the Sun Belt. Their challenge is putting it all together for four full quarters. They did that, and then some, at Middle Tennessee. Same goes for Florida Atlantic. The question becomes: can they do it at home when the stakes are high?
Before the season started, I thought four wins was not only attainable, but should be the benchmark for a successful season. The Toppers are halfway there and appear more than capable of exceeding that number. Regardless of what happens from here on out, the next few weeks should be fun to watch.
You can watch Monday's entire press conference by clicking on the media player on this page. You will hear from junior defensive back Kareem Peterson, junior defensive lineman Kenny Martin, and head coach Willie Taggart.