Posts Tagged ‘Nick Baumgardner’

WKU football blog: What they’re saying …

October 17, 2008

 

I exchanged e-mails earlier this week with Ted Hutton of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Ted covers FAU football and was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Thanks to Ted in advance, and be sure to check out his Sun-Sentinel blog here: http://blogs.trb.com/sports/college/fau/blog/

 

NB:  I hear Rusty Smith has been dealing with a shoulder problem. Is there anything to this, and how much does it have to do with his struggles this season?

TH: The Rusty Smith saga is a fascinating one. Rusty may have been hurt, but what ails him right now is in his head. He went from what Schnellenberger was calling a sure Round 1 NFL pick to a struggling junior who isn’t coming close to matching his performance last season. We are not even sure if he really did separate his shoulder in the Texas game. Nobody ever said that until Smith did this Monday, so it was news to all of us, and Schnellenberger didn’t substantiate it. Regardless, it is all healed now, whatever it was, but Smith believes it threw off his mechanics. I have seen three things that are different this season: Smith is making some bad decisions by trying to do too much; the usually sure-handed receivers have been dropping balls at an alarming rate; and teams have found that they can blitz without getting burned, and Smith is under a lot more pressure. That is how you get 9 picks in 6 games, when he threw 9 all of last season (13 games).

 

NB: Is this FAU team currently one that struggled with success, a championship-hangover type situation? Or are there other factors at play here with regard to the Owls’ sluggish start?

TH: This is pure hangover. They have plenty of talent, speed, skill, strength, etc., but they had always been underdogs and thrived on that. They have shown the cape of favorite is not a good fit. They got off to a slow start and it just snowballed. The loss to Middle Tennessee was a real killer. There was no way they should have lost to that team, but they found a way, and that carried over to the Troy game. They have had a little break now, but I really don’t know if they can turn things around. Last year the ball bounced their way at nearly every opportunity. This year it is the opposite. Anything that can go wrong has. There have been some injuries, but this is a veteran team with depth, and they should not be struggling like they are. That is what has made this so strange. The coaches and players just can’t figure out what the heck has gone wrong and why they haven’t been able to snap out of it. They look great in practice, but when the whistle blows, they play like a bunch of true freshmen. Baffling.

 

NB: This is a unique game for WKU with regard to measuring itself against a defending Sun Belt champion. What exactly is the approach like for FAU this week?

TH: FAU needs a win. That is all they are thinking about. They are not taking anyone for granted. They view this game as the one that will turn the season around. They will come out playing hard because they are a desperate team. I said this about the Troy game, and it happened, so watch for this — if FAU turns the ball over early, they will be in trouble, because they will be thinking, “here we go again…” If they can protect the ball and get out to a lead, then they just might be OK.

 

NB: What was your opinion of the “dirty” accusations following the Troy game??

TH: I do not believe FAU used cheap shots to injure two of Troys players. When you run the spread, the QB is put in danger a lot, and that is what happened. He got stood up at the line and the pile collapsed on him, and bad things resulted. The Troy players agreed that the tackle was not dirty. But they were upset by what happened afterward, when they claimed FAU players were saying things like, “glad you’re out.” FAU players denied this, but I FAU does talk trash, so I am not going to declare them innocent. I will say that they do hit hard on defense, like to gang tackle, and go to the whistle, which is how they are coached. They did get whistled twice in the season opener at Texas for late hits on McCoy, but since then, they have behaved.

 

NB: While Smith hasn’t exactly lived up to his preseason billing, FAU linebacker Frantz Joseph certainly has — talk about the type of player he is.

TH: Frantz is a beast. I think he had 10 solo tackles at Middle. He is fast and strong and always near the ball. Great story to, son of a Haitian immigrant who never really knew his father. Went to Boston College, but transferred to FAU to be back near his mother, who is very poor and who he helps out as much as he can. He’s a great kid that is always smiling and whose goal is to get his degree and start a business and take care of his mother.

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WKU football blog: K.J. Black to transfer

October 6, 2008

The K.J. Black era at Western Kentucky is over.

            WKU coach David Elson announced in a statement Monday afternoon that the school has officially given the sophomore quarterback a release from his scholarship, and permission to transfer.

            “We have been contacted by two schools that have received a release from K.J., and we will enable him to pursue his football career elsewhere,” Elson said in a statement. “I met with K.J. and his family last week, and I met with K.J. again today. We wish K.J. all the best and thank him for his contributions to our program as a student-athlete over the last three years.”

             Black began 2008 as the team’s starting quarterback before getting injured in a week-two game at Eastern Kentucky. Senior David Wolke then started the next two games before Black returned to start two weeks ago at Kentucky.

            Citing poor overall performance, Elson then announced last Tuesday that Black would no longer be the team’s starter – and that Wolke would take over the job for the remainder of 2008. Black then skipped practice later that evening – for reasons unknown – and failed to inform the team. 

            As reported in the Daily News last Thursday, Kenneth Black Sr. – K.J. Black’s father – said in an e-mail that Elson informed him on the telephone last Wednesday that Black “needs to find another school.”

            Elson confirmed Black Sr.’s comments early Monday afternoon.

            “Whatever his father said, I’m sure it’s precisely accurate,” Elson said.

            Elson would not go into further detail as to why he informed Black and his father that he needed to seek a school change.

            Black saw action in three total games as a starter this season for the Hilltoppers, throwing for 277 yards and one touchdown and running for another 68 yards. In 2007, Black saw action in all 12 games – starting two. For his career at WKU, Black went 115-of-182 through the air for 1,284 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran for 392 yards and two scores.

Read more in Tuesday’s Daily News 

WKU football blog: K.J. Black situation

October 6, 2008

By NICK BAUMGARDNER

The Daily News

nbaumgardner@bgdailynews.com/783-3239

            Western Kentucky football coach David Elson confirmed on Monday that he did indeed inform sophomore quarterback K.J. Black that he needed to find another football program to play for.

            Elson did not speak of any updates early Monday afternoon with regard to Black’s current status with the team, but did say the team will likely release a statement about the matter later today.

            “Nothing has changed, but I’m hoping we’ll get some resolve by the end of the day and we’ll be able to comment on that,” Elson said. “A (press) release on exactly what’s going on will be released today.”

            Black began 2008 as the team’s starting quarterback before getting injured in a week-two game at Eastern Kentucky. Senior David Wolke then started the next two games before Black returned to start two weeks ago at Kentucky.

            Citing poor overall performance, Elson then announced last Tuesday that Black would no longer be the team’s starter – and that Wolke would take over the job for the remainder of 2008. Black then skipped practice later that evening – for reasons unknown – and failed to inform the team. 

            As reported in the Daily News last Thursday, Kenneth Black Sr. – K.J. Black’s father – said in an e-mail that Elson informed him on the telephone last Wednesday that Black “needs to find another school.”

            “Whatever his father said, I’m sure it’s precisely accurate,” Elson said.

            Elson added that Black was never asked to change his position on the team. 

For more information, read Tuesday’s Daily News.

WKU football blog: Virginia Tech post-game

October 4, 2008

Moral victory: 

If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Western Kentucky coach David Elson’s post-game press conference came after a Hilltopper victory. 

And while that certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday at Virginia Tech, Elson seemed ecstatic about the way his team fought back in the second half — and seemed to think that a team that has been searching high and low for an identity all season long, might have just found one.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how hard they fought,” Elson said. “They’ve obviously got a very good football team, and we battled through the fourth quarter and had some opportunities, and cleaned up some things and got even better opportunities — so we’ll learn from it, build on it, get back home and get back on that winning track hopefully.

“I think talking to a few of our guys this week, they’ve learned from those other (BCS) experiences. They know that if we do the right things and play with the right technique, that we’ve got a chance. We had a goal to beat one of (the four BCS teams on the 2008 schedule), and we didn’t — but I told them to get rid of that, we’re disappointed but we can’t do anything about it now — we’ve got some other goals that we want to attain, and I’m excited to get back to work.”

Senior quarterback David Wolke agreed, saying that the true goal coming into Saturday’s game was to just get better and find a way to compete — and he felt the team did just that.

“Coach talked to us about this, he wanted us to come out of this game knowing that we got better — and I think we did,” Wolke said. “The defense has showed up every week and played the best they can and done a really good job, and offensively we still have some things we need to work on and get fixed.

“But I think we did get better today.”

Junior linebacker Blake Boyd said if the team’s found it’s identity, then it’s definitely one of toughness.

“I think we’re definitely tough,” Boyd said. “This team, offense and defense, will come out and hit you in the mouth every play — we make stands, and on offense we try to run it down your throat.

“Our offensive line is tough, our defensive line is tough, and that’s something we’re trying to pride ourselves on.”

Crowd control:

Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium has been recognized as one of the toughest, and loudest places to play in the country over the past 10 years. 

And though WKU has been to some raucous places across the country — Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida, Sanford Stadium at Georgia, Bryant-Denny Stadium at Alabama and Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. — the consensus was that Lane Stadium was by far the loudest and most difficult to deal with.

“Tough, tough place to play,” Elson said. “Give their fans and their university some credit, you hear about it, but I think we had as much trouble with communication here as we’ve had anywhere — that I’ve ever been.”

Wolke said that the team had problems getting signals and plays relayed into the game with the headsets early on, and though it was fixed, it was still tough until the end.

“At the beginning of the game it was pretty bad,” Wolke said. “We had some trouble with the headset and some things, they couldn’t hear and I couldn’t get the plays in — this is one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever been in.

“We got it fixed, but in the beginning there it was pretty bad, we missed a bunch of calls.

Offensive line progressing:

After struggling to do anything on the ground in four out of the team’s first five games, WKU shook up its offensive line this week.

And the end result wasn’t a win, but the team will certainly take the 148 yards rushing it gained against a pretty stout Virginia Tech defense.

“I think the o-line came out today to prove a point, and I think they did,” Wolke said. “They played great the whole game, and now everybody else has to do their jobs and execute more.

“But the o-line did their job and you’ve got to give a lot of credit to them.”

WKU football blog: K.J. Black still on the team

October 2, 2008

Western Kentucky coach David Elson confirmed Wednesday that sophomore quarterback K.J. Black is still a member of the WKU football team.

Black was absent from practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Elson said the team and Black are working through some issues.

Read more on this story in Thursday’s Daily News.

WKU football blog: UK postgame

September 28, 2008

Opportunities missed: 

Similar to the season opener at Indiana, Western Kentucky let several chances to swing the tide of the game slip through its fingers Saturday at Kentucky.

The first chance came early in the first quarter after senior Marcus Minor picked off a high pass from UK sophomore Mike Hartline and brought the ball down to the Wildcat 41. With the score at just 3-0 in favor of Kentucky, the opportunity to take the crowd out of the game and take its first lead against a BCS opponent this season was in WKU’s grasp.

But three offensive plays resulted in a loss of eight yards and the Hilltoppers were forced to punt the ball away.

After Tony Dixon’s one-yard run put the Wildcats up 10-0 early in the second, WKU was able to use a direct snap run from redshirt freshman Bobby Rainey to once again move into Kentucky territory — giving itself a great chance to get at least three points on the board. But once again, the next three plays resulted in a loss of yardage — minus three — and Jeremy Moore had to punt yet again. 

Perhaps the biggest missed chance of the game — and the one that most likely did WKU in — was after Tanner Siewert booted a career-long 50-yard field goal with just 3:07 to play in the half. As dreadful as WKU looked on offense in the first half, it was in prime position to go into the lockerroom only down a touchdown.

But UK sophomore Derrick Locke scrapped that when he went virtually untouched down the WKU sideline on the ensuing kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown. 

WKU didn’t do itself any favors defensively on the first drive of the second half, letting UK rip down the field in just six plays to go up 24-7 — but the Locke touchdown appeared to take any wind left out of the Hilltopper sails. 

On top of all that, WKU allowed UK to convert 7-of-13 third downs and failed to get one sack on a struggling young quarterback in Hartline. 

If there have been two themes this season for WKU, they’ve clearly been slow starts and missed chances — and those two themes have directly resulted in a 2-3 record and an 0-3 mark against BCS opponents.

Brooks defends Hartline:

Once again, UK quarterback Mike Hartline didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard or turn any heads with his play. 

But Wildcat coach Rich Brooks doesn’t seem to care about any of that, as his sophomore quarterback has yet to lose as a starter.

“Mike Hartline is 4-0 as a starting quarterback,” Brooks said. “He’s thrown one interception and I don’t know how many touchdowns, quite a few. He’s doing a really good job of handling situations — he made some mistakes out there tonight that he’ll continue to learn from.

“The great news is that we have a young quarterback learning while we win.”

Other notes from the UK sidelines: The Wildcats have won 13 consecutive non-conference games, the longest such streak since a 17-game stretch from 1954-1960. … The last time Kentucky started two consecutive seasons 4-0 was 1983-84. … Through four games this season, UK has yet to allow a rushing touchdown and dating back to last season, the WIldcats have scored at least 20 points in six straight games.

Topper tidbits: 

For the first time all season, WKU failed to get into the redzone for an entire game. … The 158 yards of total offense is exactly one yard less than the Hilltoppers gained in their 41-7 loss to their other 2008 SEC opponent — Alabama. The Hilltoppers averaged about 3.2 yards per play in both defeats. … The eight punts by WKU on Saturday was a season-high, as the team punted eight times during its opening week defeat at Indiana. … Saturday was the lowest penalized game all season for the Hilltoppers, as they committed just one infraction for 15 yards. … In three losses to BCS schools this season, WKU has allowed an average of 264.6 yards per game on the ground.

WKU football blog: Monday press conference

September 16, 2008

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.”