Vanderbilt makes short trip to take on Western Kentucky
Derek Mason isn't concerned about his Vanderbilt Commodores being the first Southeastern Conference team to play a football game on Western Kentucky's campus.
He is concerned about how tough it will be to get a win.
The teams are separated by about 70 miles and WKU left Nashville last year with a 14-12 win en route to a 12-2 season. The Hilltoppers are looking for back-to-back wins in this series when they host the Commodores Saturday in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
''It's a backyard brawl anytime you play Middle Tennessee, you play Western Kentucky,'' Mason said. ''Those borders are extremely tight, so these football teams are going to go to war. ... Let's go do what we do and have fun.''
WKU (2-1) wants to take advantage of its first true ''home'' game against an SEC opponent.
The Hilltoppers were the home team against Kentucky in two neutral-site meetings in Nashville and won both times. This contest will be in 22,113-seat Houchens-Smith Stadium, and WKU coach Jeff Brohm expects a charged atmosphere he hopes his team feeds off of.
''Any time you can bring in an opponent of this caliber from this conference, you have to come ready to play and put on a good display,'' Brohm said this week. ''We need to go out there and make the most of it.''
WKU is facing its second SEC school in three weeks. The Hilltoppers lost 38-10 at No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 10 but bounced back last weekend with a 31-24 non-conference win at Miami (Ohio) - albeit one in which they nearly blew a 24-3 lead.
Brohm stressed that the Hilltoppers must be better against a Vanderbilt squad that matches up well against them.
The Commodores (1-2) are coming off a 38-7 loss at Georgia Tech , and this second stop in a two-game road swing is crucial with Vanderbilt hosting Florida on Oct. 1. Vanderbilt's lone win was a 47-24 rout of Middle Tennessee on Sept. 10, and the Commodores can finish off the other Conference USA opponent on their schedule if they can find a way to shut down WKU's high-flying offense.
Some other things to look for Saturday:
THROWING DEEP: Mason calls the defense for Vanderbilt and is looking forward to the challenge against a Hilltoppers team that likes throwing the ball downfield. ''That's coach Brohm's personality, and I like it,'' Mason said. ''It's fun to coach against. It's fun to defense. I think our guys are going to have something for Western Kentucky, and they're going to have something for us.''
KEEP RUSHING: Freshman Quinton Baker's 103-yard effort at Miami helped WKU break the century mark in rushing for the first time this season. Brohm's goal is getting more from the ground game to shift pressure off of QB Mike White, an approach that has even involved using wide receivers such as Taywan Taylor, who just became WKU's career receptions leader.
STOP WEBB: Vanderbilt junior running back Ralph Webb, just picked as one of two captains for the season, leads the SEC in rushing with 377 yards thanks largely to a career-best 211 yards rushing against Middle Tennessee. He is averaging 125.7 yards per game this season, and Webb leads the SEC with 154.7 all-purpose yards.
PASSING FANCY: Quarterback Kyle Shurmur keeps finding ways to improve each game for Vanderbilt, and the sophomore is coming off his best game this season. He completed a career-high 17 passes in the loss to Georgia Tech where he threw for a season-high 149 yards. He also has touchdown passes now in consecutive games for the first time in his young career.
GET TO WHITE: Western Kentucky has allowed only five sacks, while Vanderbilt has only gotten two through two games. The Commodores see White as less mobile than the quarterbacks they've faced from South Carolina and Georgia Tech. ''Hopefully ... if we focus on technique and our assignments, we can rack up a couple sacks this game,'' Vanderbilt defensive lineman Adam Butler said.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.
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