Boca Raton Bowl: WKU 51, Memphis 31: 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017
WKU rolled by Memphis in a 51-31 shootout. What are the five things that matter? What’s next for each team?
When having an interim head coach is a plus
It’s almost never a good thing when a team undergoes a coaching change before its bowl, but WKU showed how it’s possible to come up with something special without the head man around. Jeff Brohm went off to coach Purdue, and interim head man Nick Holt had the team loose, fun, and innovative.
When there’s nothing to lose – and there isn’t when the program is about to undergo a massive change – the kitchen sink gets emptied. From a victory formation trick play late in the first half, to the tackle scoring a touchdown, Holt got creative, and the team responded.
Yeah, the WKU offense was fantastic
Great all season long, was the Hilltopper offense going to keep the production going without Brohm around?
The passing game that was so strong all season long was outstanding again – Taywan Taylor caught nine passes for 144 yards and a score, and Mike White threw for 336 yards and three scores, but this was Anthony Wales’ game. With 245 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and 84 receiving yards on four catches, he ripped through a good Memphis defense that couldn’t come up with a meaningful stop until it was too late.
The offense was dominant under Brohm, and then it was outstanding under Holt. Okay, new head coach Mike Sanford, show you can keep it all rolling next year.
Riley Ferguson set the tone for next year – maybe.
Banged up and hobbled, Memphis QB Riley Ferguson gutted out a tough game throwing for 372 yards and four scores with a pick. Considering backup Jason Ferguson completed just 1-of-5 passes, Ferguson had to do it all. He tried to bomb the team back into the game, and Anthony Miller caught 11 passes with three scores, but the defense couldn’t get control as WKU kept up a pace the Tigers couldn’t set.
No, Ferguson isn’t a Paxton Lynch-like pro prospect, but even in defeat, he held up relatively well and battled to the finish.
What’s next for Memphis in 2017?
This has the potential to be the next-big-thing American Athletic team with head coach Mike Norvell ready to be the next-big-thing American Athletic head coach. The high-powered attack should roll with Riley Ferguson back under center along with most of his top targets. The backfield is full of talent, starting with RBs Doroland Dorceus and Tony Pollard, and they’ll rock behind a strong line with four starters returning. This was a young group that grew up over the course of the season.
The secondary is the big concern on the Tiger D, losing three starters and most of the top backups, but the linebacking corps should be a plus. A good rotation up front might help ease the loss of two starters on the front four, but some young prospects have to shine right away in the two-deep or this could be a problem.
What’s next for Western Kentucky in 2017?
Can new head coach Mike Sanford keep the thing going? He inherits QB Mike White, but loses the other offensive stars with WRs Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris, and RB Anthony Wales gone. Losing LT Forrest Lamp is just as big, with three starters done up front in what’ll be a retooled line. Can Nacarius Fant be the new receiving star? He’d better be.
LB Keith Brown and S Branden Leston are gone, but the next five tacklers return. The line loses two starters, but it should be okay with promising young prospects ready to fill in – juniors-to-be Julien Lewis and Evan Sayner need to rock in the interior – while T.J. McCollum leads a good back seven that should be the team’s biggest early strength. The corner tandem of De’Andre Simmons and Joe Brown is solid.