Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- After getting a much-needed win last week to stay undefeated in conference play, the Hilltoppers (2-2) now face-off against the Old Dominion Monarchs (1-3) on Saturday, October 5.
The Monarchs may only have one win on the season but are a better team than their record shows. ODU opened 2019 with a tough stretch of games against ACC opponents Virginia and Virginia Tech, as well as a physical East Carolina team.
Here is what WKU needs to do to come away with a victory on Saturday.
This will make back-to-back weeks WKU is faced with the challenge of overcoming another top league defense and the Hilltopper's offense must step up its production.
WKU head coach Tyson Helton said the offense has been riding the coattails of the defense so far this season. For this to change, the Hilltoppers must play better situational football.
Last week against UAB, Western had a touchdown called back because of a hands to the face penalty that caused the Hilltoppers to settle for a field goal. Later in the fourth quarter, Ty Storey took a sack that pushed WKU out of field goal range, eliminating the opportunity for the Hilltoppers to pull ahead by two scores.
Western can't afford to have drives stall or potential points be taken off the board because of self-inflicted wounds.
The ground game for the Hilltoppers also needs to get back on track. WKU is last in the conference in rushing offense, averaging less than 90-yards per game. Against UAB, the Hilltoppers only managed 33-yards on the ground. WKU must have a reliable run game for the offense to be consistently effective.
After back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances to start the season, junior Gaej Walker has struggled in Western's last two outings. Look for the Hilltoppers to find ways to get Walker back into being a factor in the ground game.
Defensively for WKU, the Hilltoppers are facing an ODU offense that has struggled this season. The Monarchs have one passing touchdown this year, which is the third-worst in the country. The biggest threat from this ODU offense is quarterback Stone Smartt. Smartt might be quarterback, but he is also the Monarch's leading rusher. The Hilltopper's defensive line must keep Smartt in the pocket and not allow him to make plays with his legs.
The final point of emphasis is WKU must go into Saturday's game with an underdog mindset. Yes, on paper the Hilltoppers are the better team and should win. However, this is the first conference game for the Monarchs and they're playing at home. Old Dominion will be playing with a chip on their shoulder with something to prove.
This game will be a dogfight and Western needs to be mentally prepared for that come kickoff.