WKU football blog: Monday press conference

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Black’s back?

As  reported in today’s Daily News, Western Kentucky coach David Elson announced on Monday that starting quarterback K.J. Black’s status for this weekend’s game has been upgraded to probable.

Black was dressed in shoulder pads for a few practices last week and did some running and strengthening exercises with the athletic trainers and didn’t seem to be in too much pain. And Elson has said that he’s spent even more time in the training facility rehabbing his dislocated shoulder as well.

And though the injury doesn’t seem to be as serious as once thought, the question does remain as to whether or not bringing him back to action just two weeks after the injury isn’t too fast.

Black is a player that no doubt desperately wants to be on the field, and I’m sure that the WKU coaching and medical staff will make a final call on whether or not they deem him healthy enough to play. But should he be put back in a game of relatively lesser magnitude this weekend, the potential for losing him for an even greater amount of time down the line could spell disaster.

There’s has been no shortage of talk on how difficult this 2008 schedule is, and losing your starting quarterback — and the face of the offense for the relative near future — for extended time in a game against a 1-AA opponent won’t be something that goes over well.

Only K.J. Black truly knows how healthy his shoulder is at this point, but I suspect that if he’s not at absolutely 100 percent on Wednesday, then senior David Wolke will most likely be getting the nod.

I can’t see the WKU staff taking any uncalculated risk with its starting quarterback this early in the season, in a game against a 1-AA opponent.

Murray connection:

Like so many of WKU’s games this year, this week has a special tie with a member of the coaching staff.

Defensive line coach Eric Mathies is a Murray State alum, having played defensive tackle there from 1995-1997.

And though being around his alma mater will be no doubt bring back some memories, Mathies said his mind is completely focused on the task at hand.

“Obviously I went to Murray State, graduated from Murray State and it has a special place in my heart,” Mathies said. “But this is strictly business, a lot of times you play other teams and it’s personal because you want to beat those folks and they want to beat you, but this one here is business. It’s about WKU and Murray State — it’s not about me.

“I joke about Murray and the love that I have for it, but this week is all about WKU vs. Murray State.”

Mathies did however share a few of his fonder memories from his days at Murray, including the rivalry the Racers had with the Hilltoppers, and the prize that comes with winning the game — the “Red Belt.”

The story of the belt comes from 1978, when current WKU team head athletic trainer Bill Edwards was an assistant athletic trainer at WKU. Before the game, Murray trainer Tom Simmons — who had forgot his belt — asked Edwards if he could borrow one. Edwards agreed, but once the game ended, Simmons refused to give the belt back –- saying that WKU had to beat Murray again the next season to get it back.

And from then on, the “Red Belt” has been the trophy of the rivalry.

“I remember my first year at Murray State, I had just transferred from Kansas and the trainer there at the time came up to me and said, ‘hey big fella, I want that Red Belt,” Mathies said. “And I had no clue what he was talking about, but we came out here and got a big win and got it.

“But I didn’t see it again throughout the rest of my career there, we lost a double-overtime game at our place and then a triple overtime game here my senior year — so it’s going to be special.”

Air attack:

Elson once again stressed the importance of the offense sticking with and playing within the current system on Monday.

Elson reiterated many of the points he made after Saturday’s loss, a game that saw WKU pass the ball 25 times with only a handful of the throws extending beyond ten yards.

“I think you’ve got to do what you do,” Elson said. “We knew that (Alabama defensive tackle) Terrence Cody was going to be hard to move and we knew it would be a challenge, and if you look at some of those early plays, if we execute the way we’re capable of executing we could’ve gotten some first downs and then who knows.

“We’re going to always look (to take advantage of situations), if someone has a tendency or personnel that we feel we can take advantage of even if it’s outside of the box with what we normally do, then we’ll take advantage of that — but we’re going to try to still keep everything within our system.”

Elson and company make no mistake about their intentions to be a running football team, and though he’s admitted that the vertical passing game could or should be something that they take a look at — he still seems to be 100 percent behind offensive coordinator Kevin Wright’s philosophy of a run-first, short pass-second style spread offense.

“I feel really good about being able to continue with our offense and the direction we’re going,” Elson said. “The quarterback’s going to make it go and I think David’s stepped in and done a nice job, but we’re close — we’ve shuffled again on the offensive line and we’re still trying to find that right chemistry up front as well.”

Anticipated introduction:

As WKU prepares to make it’s 2008 debut inside the newly renovated Houchens-Smith Stadium on Saturday, Elson made a pitch for those attending to be there early — because a surprise or two might be in the cards.

“There’s a lot of great promotions going on with our marketing staff, during our Topper walk we’ll have 100 T-shirts that our players will throw to the crowd to encourage people to come to that and there are a lot of things for our fans, and gameday at WKU will never be the same,” Elson said. “Throw out all of your past experiences because it’s going to be just so different.

“All I can say is that you better not miss it, or you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss this intro — for students, fans, it will be unprecedented, unparelled to anything anyone has seen in the Bowling Green community — it’s going to be big time.”

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