WKU's offense concerned with ODU's pass rush
Western Kentucky is tied for the ninth-most sacks allowed in the nation this season with 18. Old Dominion is tied for the sixth-most sacks recorded with 20.
Something has to give at 5 p.m. CDT Friday at Foreman Field in Norfolk, Va.
“This is a challenge on us just because the D-line’s the strength of their defense,” WKU redshirt-senior left tackle Matt Nord said. “Our offensive line, we’re up to the challenge, and we’re ready to get after it.”
The WKU front five will have its hands full against Conference USA’s best pass rush. Seven Monarchs have recorded a sack this season and five have at least two.
Old Dominion has also recorded more than seven tackles for loss per game, good enough for 23rd nationally.
“They have two of the best defensive ends in the country,” WKU coach Mike Sanford said. “Just physically, I’ve talked to a couple of my scout friends that are NFL scouts that have come through and said that (Oshane Ximines) and (Bunmi Rotimi), those two defensive ends are definitely one of the best tandems that they’ve seen across the landscape of college football.”
Ximines and Rotimi, also candidates for the league’s unofficial all-name team, are a pair of dangerous weapons for the ODU defense. A 6-foot-3, 245-pound junior, Ximines has at least one sack in all but one game this season. Rotimi (a 6-4, 275-pound senior) has missed two of the last three games after getting to the quarterback 3 1/2 times the first two weeks of the season.
If those two weren’t enough of a handful, junior defensive tackle Miles Fox (6-1, 290) is second on the team with 4 1/2 sacks and with five tackles for loss.
“We’re gonna try to protect the football, try to get the ball out quick,” WKU offensive coordinator Junior Adams said. “That D-line, I think they’re leading the league in sacks. They’re upfield. The backend’s pretty good, too. We’re gonna do what we do. Protect our quarterback, try to keep him clean, get the ball out quick and mix some good run and pass.”
To neutralize that pass rush Western (4-2, 2-1 Conference USA) will have to continue to try to improve its struggling ground game. It did so last week to the tune of 121 yards on 34 carries for an average of 3.6 yards per rush – the latter number was a season high and the 121 yards was second only to the 141 against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 16.
It helped the Tops that all four of the team’s main running backs were about as healthy as they have been all season. Quinton Baker, D’Andre Ferby, Marquez Trigg and Jakairi Moses combined to gain 137 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per run.
Old Dominion has allowed 227.5 yards per game on the ground this season and, Oct. 7, Florida Atlantic piled up 453 rushing yards in a 58-28 win at ODU.
“I’m glad this past weekend we had a good game,” WKU redshirt-junior running back D’Andre Ferby said. “Hopefully we can build consistency off of that, give us confidence going into this game. We’re hungry and ready to get going and hopefully build some consistency.”
Through six games, WKU has allowed 18 sacks (three per game) – that’s the highest number among Conference USA teams. But only four of those sacks have come in the last two games against Texas El Paso and Charlotte.
Western’s big boys up front appear to be continuing to improve in an area no more crucial than this Friday.
“Each week we’ve gotten better,” Nord said. “And I think that’s a testament to our work ethic, getting in the film room and studying our mistakes and connecting ‘em. Obviously every game’s not gonna be perfect. But if we get in the film room and correct our mistakes we’ll put together the best game we can.”