The Miami RedHawks are coming off of a loss against rivaled Cincinnati Bearcats where they managed to put up 33 points. Now on the road against Western Kentucky, we talk with Fletcher Keel from Underdog Dynasty to see what all the fuss about this Hilltopper team is all about.
Hustle Belt: WKU has allowed 35+ points in the last two games. What's been happening to the defense and is it an area of concern moving forward?
Underdog Dynasty: Defense was a huge issue last year and was a point of concern heading into 2015. The season opener against Vanderbilt was a huge breath of fresh air, but the problems have started once again against LA Tech and Indiana. WKU had no answer for Jordan Howard (former UAB running back who leads the Big 10 in rushing after just three games with Indiana), which helped lead to a 21-0 third quarter that helped the Hoosiers win by 3 on Saturday.
There are a lot of fans calling for Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt's job, but a lot of that frustration is a delayed hang over from 2014. If this were last year, I think it'd be much more of an area of concern, but for now, I feel comfortable in saying a performance like we saw on Saturday (letting a 28-17 halftime lead slip away) will only happen one more time this season.
The Hilltoppers have a prolific aerial attack led by Brandon Doughty, a quarterback who's generating buzz from NFL scouts. What are the keys to the team's success passing the ball?
Jeff Brohm has a gameplan centered around him, he's a pass-first QB and he has all sorts of weapons in the receiving corps. If he has time in the pocket, and there are times where he has all day, he's going to not only allow a route to develop, but he's going to wait for a receiver to get into the redzone, and then launch the pass for a huge game. Week one at Vandy, Doughty's numbers suffered due to a ton of drops by his receivers, which is really rare. If the RedHawks can get Doughty mobile, that'll be the first step in making for a long day.
How does the season-ending injury to running back Leon Allen change the offense moving forward?
Against Indiana, you could almost tell the offense didn't seem as comfortable in 3rd & Short situations without Allen than they would have been with him. Allen was not only powerful and hard to bring down, but was explosive as well. Freshman D'Andre Ferby has stepped up into the starting role and did fine against Indiana - he got the first three touches of the game, so WKU isn't going to abandon the running game. But Allen was a very underrated part of the offense, with Doughty and his receiving corps getting a majority of the press and attention, but Allen was an important part of the offense. I think Ferby will be fine, but he rushed for less than 60 yards on over 20 carries, so the explosiveness teams are used to having to face out of the WKU backfield might not be there.
Despite its offensive success, WKU converts only 31% of its third downs. What's been behind their struggles on the crucial down?
WKU thrives on not having to be in third down situations. They try to get as deep as second down before moving the chains, but as is the case with so many up-tempo offenses, if they're faced with a third-down, it's usually 1.) a very quick third down and 2.) a 3rd & Long.
What do you expect to see from the Toppers on Saturday against Miami?
A very pretty first half and a very ugly second half. Just kidding. Kind of. I hope the defense comes out with something to prove - that the second half in Bloomington was a fluke. I hope the offense comes out and shows that their second half in Bloomington was a fluke also (even though they nearly came back from a 10-point deficit, it still wasn't as prolific as we've seen in previous weeks). Vegas has the Tops at over a 20-point favorite. I don't see that at all. But I do think the Tops will score a lot of points. It's just a matter of what the defense does against Miami's offense. I say the Tops avenge the loss against Indiana and move to 2-0 at home, but regardless of what happens, I just want to see a good matchup. I wouldn't be mad at all if the result this week is similar to the RedHawks' game last week against Cincinnati.