Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm, junior wide receiver Antwane Grant and junior linebacker Nick Holt talked Monday about facing Illinois on Saturday.
“Obviously it was a great first win for us. Our guys worked extremely hard in the offseason and the fall to great ready for that game. I thought we were very well-prepared. We came out, we started fast, we played fast and we kept the tempo on the entire game.
“I think our guys were able to wear out the opponent and out guys got off to a great start. So it’s a huge first win for us, it’s good to be 1-0, it’s good to win at home, but at the same time now we’re moving on and that game’s over with. We gotta move on to Game 2.
“A tough opponent, a Big Ten opponent at their place which is always difficult and I think our guys understand last year we started off very well, also, and ended up having a huge loss to Tennessee. And then also combined that with a loss at South Alabama.
“We know how important it is to come out and be ready to play this game and we can’t get too high based off the last game. So it’s important for our guys to refocus, lock in and realize how much work it’s gonna take to win this next ballgame.”
Game film: “I thought our guys played hard, and they played fast and they blocked for each other and they played for each other.
“I thought defense started fast to get a three-and-out right off the get-go against that team was huge for us. We had a good plan on offense so we took it down and scored, which was huge as well.
“We got off to a big lead thanks to our offense – and to our defense – playing very well in the first quarter. Then I thought they picked up their tempo, started to get their offense going and it was good that we were able to keep the pressure on on offense, continue to score and our defense found ways to get stops when they needed to.
“That was a very good football team, but I thought the fact that we started fast, we played hard at all positions, people played unselfishly helped us win the ballgame.”
Avoiding the letdown: “Without question it’s key. We don’t wanna be a one-game wonder. We realize that this is a long season. We told our team and our guys before the season, ‘We’re gonna take one game at a time, whether we win or lose, that game’s over and you have to move on to the next one.’
“So this’ll definitely test us as far as we have to have a great week of practice, we have to focus in. I think Illinois is a big, physical team that’s gonna like to run the football. They’re gonna try to control the clock, they’re gonna try to take away what we do well and, to be honest with you, I think we were able to execute well on offense the first game because a little bit of the element of surprise.
“I don’t think Bowling Green knew exactly what we were gonna do, Illinois does know what we’re gonna do, so they’re gonna be very prepared for it and we’re gonna have to find a way to win on both sides of the ball so it’s definitely a critical game, but I know it’s gonna be a very tough game.”
Things to improve on: “We obviously had success going fast, we had success getting the ball on the perimeter, we had success making yards after the catch. I would’ve like to have ran the ball better, I think we need to run the ball better, we need to be more physical up front.
“I’d like to take a few more shots up the field. When we did, we had to throw it away or got pressure and had to move and didn’t get as many big shots up the field as we need to to help the running game get going. Those are things we all need to work on.
“When you look at Illinois they’re gonna press our guys on the outside, they’re gonna try to take away all the quick throws that we completed this last game, so we’re gonna have to find ways to execute and push the ball up the field and we’re gonna have to find ways to run the football effectively as well when they cover out on our receivers.”
Fourth quarter offense: “I thought our offense did a great job. That last drive, I think we got the ball with over 10 minutes left, we were able to work it all the way down the field and score with about two minutes left.
“We ran the football, we worked the clock, it was a little different because we went slower. Standing over there for a long time was a little different. We got to kinda see what the defense was doing and get us in the correct play.
“We’re gonna have to do that at times and to be able to do that in the fourth quarter in the first game when we needed to – their offense did have a little momentum, they were scoring some points. It was huge for us and really culminated the night, as far as executing very well.”
Illinois QB Wes Lunt: “Wes Lunt’s a very good quarterback. When I was at Illinois we recruited him, we lost out to him, he went to Oklahoma State, started as a true freshman, which tells me he’s a good football player – Oklahoma State’s a good football team.
“Now he’s at Illinois and I think he’s a guy that is big, he can see over the line, he’s a very accurate passer, he can throw the ball up the field, he has a lot of experience being the fact that he played in the Big XII at a high level.
“He brings a lot of experience and really helps that offense become a better offense. I think they have a very fast running back that’s very good in Josh Ferguson that we recruited as well when I was there – very talented. He’s a guy that we’re gonna have to contain. I’m sure they’re gonna try to give him the ball as much as they can.
“But those are two key guys that we have to try to eliminate, or at least contain them somewhat.”
Illinois struggles against Youngstown State: “I think Illinois is a team that’s improving every week. They improved last year. I think the fact they didn’t play the way they wanted, they’re gonna have a great week of practice, they’re gonna come ready to play and they’re gonna play with their tail on fire.
“They wanna beat us and they know how important this game is for them, so we have to be ready to play. We have to match the intensity, we have to match the focus, we have to play even harder.
“I think this past game, to be honest with you, the breaks went our way and the bounces went our way. I think the ball hit the ground four times for us on offense and we recovered all four fumbles, which can’t happen. They had a wide-open guy open for a touchdown they dropped. They had a kick return that was gonna go for a touchdown, he tripped over his own feet.
“So we definitely had the breaks on our side this game, we definitely had the luck fall our way. That’s not always gonna happen. We’re gonna have to overcome a lot more adversity in this game than we did the last and our guys are gonna have to respond, stick together, play together, play for each other and hopefully find a way to win.”
Tenure at Illinois: “Illinois is a great college town, great campus. They care about their basketball, their football. They want to produce a winner.
“I think my last two years there we won a bowl game, but when your in the middle row, they want a little bit better there.
“They’re a team that’s growing, it’s the third year of their coaching staff, they improved last year, their offense was better last year. Now they have a quarterback to run the show.
“On defense they have a lot of seniors, a lot of guys that have been in that system for a long time that play hard, that are physical players, they’ll press you up on the outside. They’ll try to take away the easy throws.
“I think they’re a football team that plays a tough schedule. Obviously in the Big Ten they’re used to playing good opponents. I don’t think we’re gonna scare ‘em one bit.
“But we’ve gotta play hard, we’ve have to match their intensity and it’ll be a very tough opponent for us.”
Beating a Big Ten program: “It would be huge. Any time you can beat a team in a top conference like that, it’s very important. The other thing, too, is going on the road is tough. We gotta find a way to win on the road, that’s what makes it even tougher is playing them at their house.
“You have to overcome a lot of obstacles: The crowd, the noise, any type of breaks that go their way. So it’s gonna be a tough, physical game, hopefully we respond, come ready to play, take care of the ball and do the small things that we did this past game that were a reason for our success.”
Notable texts, calls after win: “Quite a few. Just the other night, late, I got one from Phil Simms. Basically was very complimentary, of course, but then he basically said, ‘You know Bill Parcells used to tell us, let’s not be a one-game wonder. Let’s keep it rolling.’
“So that’s important. Sometimes you can win a big game and feel good about yourself and think that you’re ready for the next one – but really you’re not. We’ve gotta get that hunger back, we’ve gotta try to work our tail off every day to improve. We have to understand how hard it is to win week-in and week-out and all we can do is concentrate on Illinois.
“But it’s definitely an outstanding team that’s gonna be big and physical and has some very good players.”
Illinois: “As far as their defense, I think they have a lot of seniors on defense that have been in that system. I think their secondary, they’re gonna press you up on the outside, they’re gonna take away all the easy throws that you try to fake, force you to throw it up the field, force you hold the ball a lot longer than you want to and force you to run the football.
“You’re gonna have to do some things to counteract that. So that obviously presents a challenge for us. I think they’re good up front. I think they’ll match our personnel well. They play hard. I know a couple of those guys that were there when I was there and they play very hard. I think, like I said, they’re familiar with that system so that’ll be a challenge.
“As far as our defense, I think that their quarterback is very good. He can throw the football up the field. He can throw accurately, he can get completions. I think they did lose some receivers from the previous years, so I don’t think they’re as good at that position as they have been. But they definitely have guys that can go make plays and I think their running back in Josh Ferguson is very explosive, very fast, very talented. If he gets an open space, he can go a long way. He’s a guy that we gotta contain as well.
“I think the quarterback and the running back are the top things we have to try to stop and they’re very, very good football players.”
Taywan Taylor: “I thought Taywan had a tremendous first game. He’s a receiver that’s very strong, he’s explosive, he has a lot of strength in his lower body. He works extremely hard in practice.
“He’s a guy that played for us as a true freshman last year and had his ups and downs like every freshman does. He was down at times last year, let it get to him a little bit, but he’s learned from it, and like I said, he’s practiced extremely hard in the spring, the summer, the fall – he came out and he made plays and caught the ball consistently, which was great to see, because he is a little bit raw in his route running.
“His ability to get yards after the catch and how explosive he was was tremendous to see because that’s what he does bring to the table. He’s very strong, he’s very athletic and he can definitely do things with the ball after the catch. So to see him do that the first game and get his confidence up, I was extremely happy to see that, happy for him and I think that’s something he needs to build upon as well.”
2013 struggles for Taylor: “Last year he’s a true freshman. He’s a guy that we recruited and signed really late. We hadn’t offered him until a couple weeks before Signing Day. I went and watched him play basketball and I saw how explosive he was on the basketball court, how he jumped, how he moved and that’s kind’ve what we went on.
“Receiving-wise, if you watched the video, he was very raw. He caught some screens, but other than that, not a lot of route running. We knew he was gonna have to learn and grow into the position and that’s what he did last year. He did. He worked hard.
“He didn’t quite understand the receiver position as much as he needed to. He didn’t understand the entire system that we had in, which is normal. It’s not abnormal at all, but it was normal.
“Then he kind of let it get to him a little bit mentally and then lost some confidence. But, he’s very talented. He definitely went to work this spring, summer, fall and had a great camp. He’s a guy that works as hard as anybody that we have on the practice field. Goes hard every snap so he gets used to doing that in practice, making runs after the catch every day in practice.
“Coach Shephard, our receivers coach, has done a great job of working him on route running. We try to concentrate on a handful of routes every day, that, ‘Hey, these are the main routes we’re gonna run. You have to be good at these and then we’ll add in a few after that.’
“He worked really hard at those and he’s gotten better and he did a very, very good job the first game.”
Defense: “I thought we played really hard, but one thing that stood out that we need to correct is we missed too many tackles and had just a couple mental lapses.
“But I think we played really hard and we ran to the ball well, which helped us out a lot. But we gotta come back this week and really work on wrapping up so we can’t miss as many tackles as we did this week.”
Big Ten opponent: “It’s exciting playing a team from the Big Ten, but really we like to treat every game – they’re all just as important. We’re not gonna prepare any differently than we would for any other team. But we are excited to play a Big Ten school.”
Shutting down BGSU early: “It was huge. We felt like we were playing really well and it was big because our offense came out and, I mean, they scored on, I think, two out of three of their first drives. That kinda changed the dynamics of the game, because they were down. We had ‘em down immediately.
“And Bowling Green’s a good offense. We knew that they were gonna end up putting up some points, but it was great to come out stop ‘em and let our offense do their thing right out from the gate.”
Avoiding the letdown: “Yeah, that’s the mindset coming into this game coming up against a big-time opponent. We’re just looking forward to the challenge. We have a lot of great players, as we all know. We just try to, like, take it one game at a time.”
Offensive numbers: “My take on it it, Brandon was, he was just saying the whole game, ‘Take it one play at a time, one possession at a time. Don’t over-think it.’ It just happened. The offense was clicking, the running game was clicking, the passing game was clicking and everybody was just on the same page. It wasn’t a surprise to us.”