Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- The Hilltoppers look to improve to 2-0 in conference play when they host the UAB Blazers on Saturday, September 28.
WKU will also be without quarterback Steven Duncan, as Duncan will miss the remainder of the season after having surgery on his right foot.
Here is what the Hilltoppers need to do to remain perfect in conference play.
Starting with the offense, the Hilltoppers need to ease the new quarterback into the game, whether it's Ty Storey, Davis Shanley, or Kevaris Thomas. Those guys can do a lot of the same things, so the game plan for WKU doesn't change, but you still have three guys who have yet to see game action this season. Storey is the exception, he played one snap against FIU.
The offense needs to give the quarterback some easy throws early that get the ball out of his hands quickly. UAB knows how to get to the quarterback. The Blazers have recorded 13 sacks in the first three games of the season. Those quick, easy throws should help neutralize UAB's strong pass rush and help the quarterback get into a rhythm.
WKU also need to establish a solid ground game. If the Hilltoppers can consistently run the ball, that takes the pressure off the quarterback and makes his job easier.
The run game can also help create the big plays that head coach Tyson Helton always talks about wanting his offense to be able to make. If WKU runs the ball effectively, that can set up the play-action pass, the defense bites thinking it's a run and that leaves a receiver open downfield.
On the defensive side of the ball, this a game where WKU's secondary will need to step up similar to how they did against FIU.
In the Hilltopper's two loses this season, there have been about 3-5 big plays down the field that have taken WKU out of the game. That is an area the Hilltoppers will need to cut down on against the Blazers. UAB's Austin Watkins, Kendall Parham, and Myron Mitchell are averaging 20-yards a catch so far this season and quarterback Tyler Johnston III has high-level accuracy. WKU's secondary will need to play tight coverage and force Johnston to try and fit the ball into tight windows.
The Hilltoppers defensive line needs to keep Johnston uncomfortable in the pocket and make him get rid of the ball before he's ready. If you give Johnston time, eventually his receivers will get open, no matter how well they're covered.
Finally, as a team, WKU must control the line of scrimmage and win the turnover battle.
The Hilltoppers had control of line on both sides of the ball in their first two games but struggled against Louisville. WKU must regain that control this weekend, especially dealing with the Blazers pass rush.
As far as the turnover battle goes, WKU has lost that battle in every game this season. The defense has yet to snag an interception. meanwhile the offense has turned the ball over six times. The Hilltoppers defense has to start creating turnovers and the offense needs to take better care of the football.
WKU and UAB kickoff at 6:00 p.m. at Houchen-Smith Stadium.