WKU football blog: Monday press conference

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Still competing:

After Western Kentucky’s loss to Alabama earlier this season, coach David Elson said the biggest positive he and his coaching staff took from watching the game film was that even though the team was down big, the players were still competing and fighting to the end.

When asked if he thought the same after watching Saturday’s 41-3 loss to Kentucky, Elson said he did.

“They competed,” Elson said. “It didn’t feel very good in the second half there and we were discouraged, but there wasn’t any lack of effort or lack of competing or anything.”

Elson said the biggest difference in the second half was Kentucky — and how well the Wildcats performed.

“I’ll give credit to Kentucky, they did a very good job in the second half,” Elson said. “They got into a rhythm and a groove with getting the ball outside in their one back set.

“Part of that falls on me, we could have maybe adjusted a little bit better, but you’ve got to give them credit — our guys fought and competed but it was that momentum factor once again.”

Special teams letdown:

WKU’s special teams play had been something it was hanging its hat on through the season’s first four games. But when UK’s Derrick Locke ran virtually untouched for a crushing 100-yard kickoff return score on Saturday, the once sparkling Hilltopper specialty units had a bit of explaining to do.

Elson said that the biggest problem with the Locke return was in fact the kickoff itself, as it didn’t have enough hang time to allow the gunners to cover the kick.

“The biggest thing is the kicks, and people don’t realize that,” Elson said. “We’re not getting enough hang time, and I thought in person that (senior kicker) Tanner (Siewert’s) kick was good in person because it got to the goal line, but just getting to the goal line doesn’t mean it’s a good kick.

“There’s an equation that if it’s so many yards, then the hang time needs to be so much so the guys can get down and cover — and also, they did a very good job of executing their return.”

Elson said that he still feels extremely confident in his special teams unit, and declared that he felt no one in the country spends more time working on them than WKU does.

Weekly grind:

Before the start of the 2008 season, Elson said one of the biggest things the team needed to adjust to was the weekly grind of an FBS schedule.

Unlike years past, there aren’t very many “easy” games on the slate, and playing each game with the same intensity is something the team is learning to deal with.

“I think we’re getting there,” Elson said. “I’ve thought about the lessons truly learned here, and it’s just week in and week out against this kind of competition you’ll have those momentum swings that maybe against lesser competition you could have fought your way out of maybe in the third or fourth quarter.

“But we’ve got to be able to fight out of them now, and respond right back, because against good competition will continue to take advantage of it and continue to build a lead.”

Elson said the fact that the team has played five of its first six games away from Houchens-Smith Stadium isn’t helping anything, but again, it’s something the team has to learn to fight through.

“This will be our sixth game and five out of six have been on the road, and that’s probably not something that’s going to happen again — I hope not at least,” Elson said. “But they’ve handled it great, man, they’ve had great attitudes and when we go back and look and ask if I misread if we had better practices than I thought.

“But coaches and players agree, we did have a good week of practices. Our guys can’t get discouraged because we had a good week of practice and then the Saturday result wasn’t what we wanted it to be, we’ve got to keep knocking on that door and eventually it will open.”

Injury update:

Elson said he wasn’t fully aware of how severe junior cornerback Rashad Etheridge’s dislocated shoulder was Monday.

Etheridge left the game in the second half and did not return.

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