WKU football blog: Alabama post-game thoughts

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Young offensive guns

Perhaps the only bright spots for Western Kentucky on Saturday were a pair of redshirt freshman ball catchers. Receiver Derrius Brooks and tight end Tristan Jones once again proved to be reliable targets.

Brooks led the team with six catches for 40 yards, while Jones came up with the Hilltoppers’ best play of the evening – a 30-yard catch and run down the sideline that saw him break several tackles and push his way into the end zone.

“Brooks made some plays, Jones made that catch and broke a tackle and just played really well tonight,” senior quarterback David Wolke said.

With junior receiver Jake Gaebler missing Saturday’s game due to back problems, it was once again Brooks and Jones who stepped up and filled a void. WKU coach David Elson hopes it stays that way.

“There’s two redshirt freshman who are playing their third games of Division I college football,” Elson said. “Derrius made some plays again tonight and you can see the type of confidence he’s got out there, and Tristan is a guy that we said from day one is someone we have to find a way to get the ball to and get on the field.

“They’re definitely two guys we want to continue to get the ball to, and hopefully if we can get Jake Gaebler and Quinterrance Cooper and Wenquel Graves involved we’ll be able to have some balance with that spread offense and keep people on their heals.”

Wolke impresses

Even though the offense struggled to find a rhythm for most of the game, Elson said none of that could be attributed to the quarterback.

Considering Wolke made his first start since November, Elson said he thought the senior played extremely well.

“I thought he was solid,” Elson said. “I felt like offensively we really worked hard with communication and the noise and all those things. We did a good job of being patient and not trying to force things.

“He did a really good job, was efficient, threw some good balls and didn’t really make any bad decisions either … overall he did a nice job.”

Wolke said he felt good, but still hopes to do more.

“I felt fine,” Wolke said. “We just have to make more plays on offense, man.”

Crowd noise a nonfactor

Despite playing in front of easily the largest crowd of the season – 92,138 – WKU seemed to have little problem with noise inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Hilltoppers were only flagged for one offensive false start penalty, and even got Alabama to jump offsides defensively once.

“We weren’t shocked by the size of the crowd, we weren’t shocked by the ranking of the opponent when I think we were going into the Indiana game early on,” WKU offensive lineman Greg Ryan said. “We definitely had to make a lot of adjustments with the crowd noise, making calls extra loud and relay them – and the only false start we had was a mental lapse on our part because we were trying to do something to draw them off.

“But as far as crowd noise, it plays a role, but once you get between those lines you can’t really hear anything.”

As big as advertised

One player the WKU offensive line focus on all week was Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody.

At 6-foot-5 and 365 pounds, Cody was as large as the Hilltoppers thought he was. So was the entire Alabama defensive line for that matter.

“It wasn’t anything different than we expected, we knew that No. 62 was as big as he was and the rest of them were to,” Ryan said. “We knew we were going to have to get up underneath them and move them out of there. I think one of the struggles we did have was that we concentrated too much on those inside guys and kind of forgot about the second level.”

On the other side, Alabama coach Nick Saban almost seemed surprised at the lack of movement and stunting shown by the WKU defensive line. After all, the main problem the Crimson Tide had last week on offense was dealing with Tulane’s activity up front.

“I think there was a different style of defense that we played against tonight,” Saban said. “They didn’t move around a lot, didn’t stunt as much, they didn’t run the linebackers through, which is what gave us problems in the Tulane game. Tonight, we just did a better job of executing and were more physical.”

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