Allen, Clemmons, Manley talk WKU offense

Running back Leon Allen and offensive linemen Joe Manley and Cam Clemmons talk about the state of the Western Kentucky offense after three games.

Leon Allen
    Running game: “We’ve been doing pretty good. We gotta stay with it, stay running physical – I think we gotta run more physical than we have been running. It’s more on me. Just finishing downfield, finishing every time. Don’t take more of the contact, give more than I’ve been doing.”

    1-2 start despite the offensive numbers: “It’s kind of frustrating because we should’ve won those games. But we gotta pick up and learn from our mistakes and move on to the next game.”

    Offense meet your expectations? “I was expecting this. We can be better than where we are, too, because we missed opportunities. But yeah, I was expecting this.”

Joe Manley
    Adjustment: “I feel like I’ve adjusted pretty well. The group of guys here, the O-line especially, a very tight group. All good good guys, they all play hard – it’s very good here.”

    The offense: “The offense has done very well, but we’re 1-2. We haven’t done enough yet. We’re working, grinding hard every day right now getting ready for Navy. Navy’s a very good team, they play very together. They play everything together.”

    Adjusting to a new system: “It’s not really a new system. It’s similar to (Bobby) Petrino’s, there’s a few quirks and a few things that are different, but I feel like I’m adjusting well, I still got a lot of work to do – assignments, errors, things like that. But I feel like I’m doing pretty well.”

    Things to improve on: “I’ve got a couple different technique things I talked to my coach today about. Just get better at those, keep working hard everyday, come out here as a team and grind (Thursday) and enjoy our little break, lift on Friday.”

Cam Clemmons
    Team assessment: “Ah, you know, we’re coming along right now. We’re going through a little bit of adversity, a two-game losing streak, it’s a long season and we just gotta keep working and keep grinding and everything will work out.”

    Running game: “We need to continue to improve. Any time you’re short-yards and goal-line, we gotta punch it in, no matter if they have 15 guys in the box, we gotta find a way to get it in. We’re working and we’ll get it right.”

    1-2 start: “You gotta be ready for anything. You gotta just keep grinding. A lot of time you can’t control what’s going on, we just gotta continue to produce. Our mindset is to score every time we get on the field and we haven’t done that so far. So we just gotta keep getting better.”

    The offense: “Honestly, we’re 1-2 right now so we’re never pleased. It’s all about wins and losses. We could put 1,000 yards, but it’s all about getting wins.”

    Navy defense: “Defense, they play extremely hard. They’re tough guys, they’re in the military. I remember last year just how hard they played and how together they played and they’re gonna play hard for 60 minutes.”

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Brohm talks about team’s focus during offf week

Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm met with the media after Tuesday’s practice at Houchens-Smith Staidum.

Jeff Brohm
    Bye week: “We gotta use this off week, A, to get healthy, get a lot of our injured guys healthy, get a lot of treatment, make sure that our guys are getting ready for our next opponent.
“Secondly we have to get better. There’s numerous things we need to work on on both sides of the ball and special teams. We gotta use this week to improve on fundamentals, technique – and really push hard to get better.
“We know that it’s tough competition. The difference between winning and losing is small and we’ve gotta find ways to out-work, out-prepare and continue improve every week.”

    Defense: “This upcoming week we’re gonna face something a little different, so I think we have a decent plan ready for that, the one we used last year we’ve adjusted a little bit.
“Overall I think we have to find ways to take away their best players, whether that’s stopping the quarterback run, whether that’s containing the back – which we knew going into it that’s what we needed to do and we didn’t get it done. I think in the second half we did a little better with that.
“We can’t have lapses. We gotta be sound in what we’re doing. Our players have to understand the plan. We have to continue to play hard and sellout on every snap. There’s definitely things we need to work on.”

    Special teams: “Specials teams has been doing OK. I’d like to see it get better. I’d like to see us have a chance to get more return yardage, I’d like to see us punt the ball better as well.
“Obviously, Schwettman I believe, is doing very well kicking the ball. We gotta get a little firm in our protection there. Really every aspect of it needs a little bit of work. We’re gonna work on it hard just like we always do, adjust some guys on the teams to hopefully improve ‘em, but there’s still work to be done with that.”

    Conference USA: “We took a lot of time in the summer and examined all the teams we’re playing. I’m not gonna lie, we knew they were very good football teams and I think they’ve shown that the first three weeks. Very competitive from top to bottom, even teams that you may not have thought normally as much are playing very well.
“It’s gonna be tough competition. We’re new to the league. We came from a league outside of here, not too familiar with these teams, these teams have played tough competition every year. We’ve gotta raise our level of play, we’ve gotta raise our level of preparation, we have to find ways to compete and battle and win some of these guys because I believe a lot of ‘em are gonna go down to the very end.”

    Injuries: “Joe Iggy (Joel Iyiegbuniwe) he had surgery (Tuesday) on a patella tendon that he hurt during the (MTSU) game. Mitch Henry has got a shoulder injury that happened in overtime that we’re trying to recover.
“Then we’ve got some other guys that have been nicked up, some linemen that have been nicked up all year that we need to try to get them better this week to hopefully where they can play where they’re a little healthier for the game and play better.
“Those are things we’re gonna continue to do and hopefully the off week allows our guys time to refresh a little bit.”

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WKU volleyball heads to Michigan State

The Western Kentucky volleyball team has won nine straight and heads to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend for another tough preseason tournament.

The Lady Toppers (10-2) face Wisconsin-Milwaukee (4-6) and No. 23 Michigan State (5-3) on Friday before taking on LIU Brooklyn (7-3) on Saturday.

Coach Travis Hudson and junior Noelle Langenkamp spoke Monday about the current state of the team and expectations moving forward.

Travis Hudson
Team handling success: “I told our staff after Friday, they’ve worked hard and you hope they get a little national recognition, but at the same time, with such a young group, I kind of like being out of the spotlight a little bit.

“But it is what it is. Every season is what it is and you take the challenges that are put in front of you and these are pretty good ones.”

The weekend that was: “We’re getting more consistent, that’s the big thing. But, to be honest, we’re still who we are. We’re still a team that can win on any given night and that can lose on any given night.

“I think we’ve pulled out some close ones because of the competitive nature of this group. I don’t think it’s necessarily the consistency or the skill level at this point. It’s just a competitive group and they just keep going out there and grinding and finding a way.

“It’s been fun. It’s been fun to coach them and I still echo what I said early in the season. I said we’re probably gonna win two or three that everybody’s gonna be saying, ‘wow,’ then we’re gonna lose two or three that everybody’s gonna say, ‘wow.’ I still think that’s true with this group.”

This weekend at MSU: “Another huge challenge. We play the Milwaukee team that two of the three sets we played them (earlier this season) were 26-24 sets. They played us very, very well – they’re the Horizon League favorite. Michigan State’s been in the top 25 all year, another huge challenge for our team.

“Then LIU Brooklyn was a NCAA Tournament team a year ago and already has a win against Alabama. They’re a terrific team, too.

“It’s just what you’d want your schedule to be with where our team is right now. We hope to continue to find out more and more about ourselves and keep getting better. I’m excited to have a full week of practice. It’s the first full week of practice we’ve had since we started playing and we can certainly get better.”

Noelle Langenkamp

Handling some success: “I think the biggest think that comes with success is maintaining it. It’s really easy when you’re winning at a high level to kind of, like, maybe think you got it all figured out.

“I think the biggest thing that makes our program special is we don’t let up when we have success. We continue to look for things we can improve on and that’s one of the biggest things the younger girls need to keep in the forefront of their mind.”

This past weekend: “The cool thing about our team, I think something that makes our team really special, we are so competitive. We have such a competitive edge, I feel. We always – even when we’re at a deficit – we fight back. I think that’s something that makes our team – this team specifically – really special. That’s going to help us in the long run.”

This weekend’s tournament: “I would love to get three wins, but I think more than anything, what (Hudson) has been preaching is just to continue to get better. This weekend is another opportunity to expose our weaknesses.

“Ultimately our goal is to be successful in conference. As many opportunities we have to expose our weaknesses, I think the better we’ll be in the end. That’s what I’m looking forward to, continuing to be competitive and fiery when we play.”

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Postgame reaction: MTSU

Postgame reaction tonight from WKU coach Jeff Brohm, wide receiver Willie McNeal and linebacker Nick Holt.

Jeff Brohm
“It’s one of those games. I think our team battled hard, they competed, there were a lot of momentum swings. I’m proud of them for how hard they played, they fought until the end and that’s all you can ask for.
“Unfortunately they made the big play at the end to win it and that’s how it goes.”

   Locker room: “The mood’s not good. Guys are mad, they’re ticked off, they’re disappointed. They know that we could’ve won the game.
“But like I tell ‘em every week, that’s college football nowadays. “We’re a new team in a new conference, a conference that the first couple weeks has really proven itself. Every game the rest of the year is going to be like that. They’re going to go down to the wire, we’re going to have to find ways to win to get better in certain areas to help our team win. There’s too many yards being had by both teams.
“But those are things we just gotta look at, we gotta try to improve upon and it’s unfortunate we didn’t find a way to win.”

    Defense: “I think they played hard. They’re a young defense, we didn’t make enough plays. We had a quarterback (Grammer) that we needed to contain and we didn’t contain him in the first half. That’s the thing, in my opinion, that I’m really disappointed in, not being able to contain the quarterback. He had too many easy runs straight up the middle where he was untouched. So that was a little disappointing.
“I think we did get it fixed in the second half, we contained him better, we didn’t allow him to make those runs, our defense played harder – but I think both defenses played better in the second half and had an answer.
“We’ll have to go back to the drawing board, look at the things we need to correct, work on them. I think our guys will compete and battle and they’ll look forward to the next game. But we know that everyone’s gonna be tough.”

    Missed opportunities: “It was a back-and-forth game and we had a few chances down in the there to score and we tried to hammer it up the middle and unfortunately we didn’t get it. That hurt us.
“I’d like to be able to run the ball sometimes when you get down tight and we weren’t able to do it, so that’s disappointing.
“I think Leon ran hard. When we spread the field he ran better. When we get him in the box, we can’t run the ball as well as we’d like to.
“Those are thing we gotta get a better plan for. But I think our guys continue to fight and continue to battle, we had a lot of guys make a lot of plays, which is good to see. But we just got to clean up some key situations on offense where we could’ve kinda put an extra score in there by just running the ball and being physical. We weren’t able to do it.
“Then obviously on defense we gotta continue to work and try to contain the other offenses and hold ‘em to less points and yards.”

Willie McNeal
    Frustration on losing: “Games like this, with record-breaking stuff like that, it’s something that you want to celebrate. But with a loss, you can’t really celebrate that. You got to go to film, learn from the mistakes and be ready for the next opponent.”

    Being a senior: “I got to let guys know and understand it’s early in the season. Anything can happen. All we got to do now is take care of the things that we can take care of.”

    Losing in overtime: “I feel what they felt (in 2011) a couple years ago. I hate the way it happened like that. Thought we was gonna pull it off, but things happen.”

    Brohm’s message in the locker room: “Just keep our head up, you know? It’s a long season, just keep our head up. Control the things that we can control.”

    Using the loss as motivation: “Just finish. We gotta capitalize on the opportunities that we get. The defense got good stops for us and the offense, unfortunately, we had to punt it right back.”

Nick Holt
    Mood in the locker room: “Extremely disappointed in ourselves because we knew we had multiple chances to win the game and really put ‘em away and we just didn’t – offense, defense and special teams.
“We’re really disappointed and it’s a good we have a bye week to kinda regroup and kinda find our identity as a team. But yeah, not feeling too hot in there.”

    Doughty’s second quarter INT: “We practice for scenarios like that. We call it ‘sudden change’ and I thought we did a pretty decent job. But really in the first half we just gave up too many rushing yards, really, letting the quarterback scamper down the field and that’s what really killed us.”

    Bye week: “We’re gonna be very, very hungry to get back out there. It’s gonna feel really long, but it’ll be good for us to get the extra work in, especially coming up against Navy, with their triple option, it’s good that we have a bye week, another week to prepare for that.”

    MTSU offense: “The thing about Middle Tennessee is they run the ball really well with four receivers, so we have to spread out to respect the receivers out there and they do a really good job running with only five lineman and that’s what really killed us.
“We were in zone and we would have to bump out there. We started playing a lot more man, so myself and our other linebacker could be in the box and that’s when we started shutting down their run game in the second half.”

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Manley declared eligible immediately

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has granted immediate eligibility to Western Kentucky offensive lineman Joe Manley.

A transfer from Louisville and product of Bowling Green High, Manley will not be required to sit out the mandated one season after transferring from one Football Bowl Subdivision to another. Manley and WKU requested a waiver to play right away based on the health of Manley’s mother.

Manley’s request to play in the 2014 season was initially denied by the NCAA, but an appeal was later approved.

A 6-foot-6, 320-pound redshirt-sophomore, Manley asked for his release from U of L on Aug. 15. Manley has been practicing with the team at right guard since Aug. 18 and is the 18th offensive linemen on the roster.

Manley played in nine game for Louisville in 2013 on both special teams and the offensive line. As a senior at BGHS in 2011 he was a three-star prospect and was a first-team all-state selection. He redshirted his first season at U of L in 2012.

Reportedly holding scholarship offers from Louisville, Illinois, Kentucky and WKU, Manley chose the Cardinals in July of 2011 over UK and Vanderbilt and was ranked the 47th best offensive guard in the nation by Scout.com.

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Five things to watch: Middle Tennessee

Here are five things to watch Saturday when Western Kentucky plays at Middle Tennessee:

1 — The hangover effect: Western Kentucky couldn’t forget about the Illinois game if it wanted to – granted, us media-type folks wouldn’t exactly allow them to do that. What with all the questions and schtuff.
Still, judging by the body language and the comments this week, the Tops know they let one get away in Champaign. So how does that translate to Saturday at MTSU? It could have lingering effects – negatively or positively. It could be a moot point.
The Hilltoppers may be out to prove they’re capable of correcting the ills that were their demise at Illinois – but too much focus on that may end up hurting the task at hand.

2 — The MTSU run game: I would argue the WKU run defense hasn’t been truly tested at this point. Bowling Green got so far behind so quickly, it couldn’t waste time running the football. The Tops shut Illinois down on the ground, but let’s all be honest, Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt would have rather thrown the ball around the yard anyway.
The Blue Raiders have two very good running backs and if either one gets going, that could be a major issue for the visitors. Watch for how the Hilltoppers handle Middle’s ground attack.

3 — Quarterback play: I tend to subscribe to the theory that quarterback play is a major factor in a team’s success – certainly at the professional level and more often than not at the collegiate level.
Western Kentucky has a redshirt-senior in Brandon Doughty that should … SHOULD … be the better quarterback in this game. He has more experience, a better wide receiver corps and a more complete offense. Austin Grammer, a redshirt-sophomore for MTSU, may be good in time, but hasn’t fully proven himself at this point.
All that being said, much more is asked of Doughty than Grammer, and WKU fans are all too familiar with seeing how a below-average game from Doughty tends to equal a loss. So I would argue whichever QB has the better game managing his own respective system will come out the winner.

4 — The WKU run game: I continue to read all across the Internet realm that Brohm & Co. run a wide-open, spread offense that likes to wing it all over the field. But that’s just not entirely the case.
Yes, the numbers indicate that’s what the Tops have been featuring, but Leon Allen can’t be forgotten. One of these nights Allen will put together his second half against BGSU and his first half against Illinois and go buckwild. Could that be Saturday at MTSU? The Raiders’ run defense is awfully porous.

5 — The wacky world of rivalries: I have only covered this Western Kentucky-Middle Tennessee rivalry since the 2010 season (filling in for Nick Baumgardner that year whilst he followed the men’s basketball team), but the three games I’ve been present for have created some seriously wacky moments:
•In 2010, a 27-26 MTSU win, Rod Isaac found a lost fumble on the goal line (watch here at the 1:47 mark) and went 99 yards in the other direction to send the Hilltoppers to a 15th straight loss at home.
•In 2011, WKU started 0-4 and was 4-36 in its last 40 games coming in. They went to Murfreesboro and won 36-33 in double overtime (a win I oddly predicted, for whatever that’s worth) when Bobby Rainey caught a seven-yard pass for a touchdown into the corner of the end zone to send Willie Taggart’s team streaming onto the field in complete pandemonium at Floyd Stadium (watch here).
•In 2012, Kawaun Jakes and WKU were driving for a game-tying score when a tipped ball was intercepted (watch here at the 4:01 mark) by Kenneth Gilstrap. Middle Tennessee hung on for a 34-29 win.
I’m not guaranteeing something along those lines will happen Saturday – but I wouldn’t bet against it.

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Jeff Brohm’s final thoughts on MTSU

Here are Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm’s final thoughts before the Hilltoppers depart for Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Middle Tennessee.

Jeff Brohm
    Week of practice: “Well I think they had a good week of practice, we definitely improved on the things we needed to during the week of practice. I think our guys are hungry, they’re looking forward to starting Conference USA.
“It’s a great move for our team, for our university and to start off against our rival, you couldn’t ask for a better scenario.”

    Focused on going 1-0 in conference: “Yeah without question. These last two games were great games to help us prepare for the conference. That’s really what you try to do, you try to win the conference.
“There’s a lot of parity in the conference, a lot of good football, so you gotta get ready to play, you play one game at a time as hard as you can. They’re all gonna be fourth-quarter games that you gotta win and be tougher in the fourth quarter to win. We didn’t do that in the last game, so let’s see if we can learn from that and go out and play a good game.”

    Responding from a loss: “I think we had a really good week of practice. I think they understand that we went out, we played hard, unfortunately we lost. What you gotta do is learn from those mistakes. I think we did, we took the time to do that, now it’s back to grinding and getting better.
“I think our guys are gonna go out, cut it loose, play hard and lay it all out there and that’s all you can do. But I do see our team responding.”

    Brandon Doughty anxiousness and a soft secondary: “Well without question those are things we’re trying to improve this week. I think we had a very good week of practice. Our defense practiced well, we have a good plan in place for Middle Tennessee.
“I think Brandon knows what he has to do and he’s done a good job for the most part. As a quarterback, there’s a lot on your shoulders and you’ve gotta maintain that composure, that same sense of calmness, that same sense of distributing the ball, just doing your job, not doing more than that – especially with him.
“If he does that I think he’ll play well – and out other guys gotta step up and play well also.”

    Offensive line: “We’ve had to shift guys a lot. We’re trying to get guys healthy and it’s gonna be a process. We’re getting a lot of other guys a lot of reps. I think our guys are getting a little bit healthier, it’s important to do that.
“Those guys do all the dirty work, but you have to have ‘em. They gotta pass protect, they gotta run block, normally they’re playing the entire game while the others are rotating. So there’s a lot on their shoulders, but I do think they’ll go out and play hard.”

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