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Opponent Breakdown: Western Kentucky Defense

After an embarrassing loss at home, the Topper defense hopes to keep Louisville’s struggling offense in check.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Western Kentucky has struggled since Jeff Brohm left for Purdue and that was evident when they fell to Maine last week after being up 21 points. A slight bright spot in that game was the defense who got a pick six and played pretty well outside of a handful of plays. Unfortunately, those handful of plays all went for touchdowns. Western will come to Louisville hoping to find a way to get to the quarterback like they did against Wisconsin.

The defensive front for the Toppers had a solid game against Wisconsin but in week two, they weren’t able to build on that success like you would expect against a FCS opponent. Jeremy Darvin is the guy that really stands out with this group at defensive tackle. He’s a stocky guy with a similar build to former Card DeAngelo Brown. He plays extremely hard and has a knack for beating blockers and closing quickly on his target. Evan Sayner mans the other tackle spot and they combine for a solid team when it comes to stuffing run plays.

DeAngelo Malone is another guy that flashed on the screen a lot in the first two games for the Toppers. He’s a tall and long defensive end that has been able to get around the edge and get to the quarterback a couple of times. He’s also been used a couple of times in coverage and his athleticism jumps out at you. I think their best combination is Malone with Juwuan Jones on the other side. Jones is a former linebacker that bulked up last year and still shows that athletic ability that you would hope he would hold onto after the position change. Both of these guys will provide a solid challenge for Louisville’s tackles.

WKU runs a 4-2-5 set almost exclusively and they are very solid at the linebacker spot. Ben Holt is a captain of the defense and really makes a lot of plays at his middle linebacker spot. Holt is the son of former defensive coordinator Nick Holt and he stuck around after Holt followed Jeff Brohm to Purdue. Holt is a very good linebacker against the run but he leaves a lot to be desired in coverage. His battery mate, Masai Whyte, is more of a player that gets to play in space and make plays with his speed. Both will be guys to keep an eye on when it comes to UofL’s tight ends and running backs in the passing game.

Eli Brown is a guy to keep an eye out for at linebacker. He transferred from Kentucky and got a waiver to play immediately. He got a lot of snaps last week and showed why he was an SEC talent at some point. I think he’s better in coverage than Holt and that could get him more snaps against Louisville if Bobby Petrino comes out throwing a lot again.

The Toppers’ secondary had to be disappointed in how things turned out this past weekend. They started off the game with a pick six on their first drive on the field. They held Maine to a 41% completion percentage. They also broke up 8 passes on the day. But, they gave up three touchdown passes in man coverage and those three touchdowns were all that Maine needed on offense to get the win. To hold a team to 12 completions and still give up three touchdowns has to be rough on film day.

The top defensive back for WKU is DeAndre Farris at cornerback. He finished last season with 13 PBUs and has 3 so far this year. He’s an undersized guy at 5-10 but plays with the energy and fire that you want to see at the position. Roger Cray mans the other corner spot with Ta’Corian Darden in the slot as a nickel. All three of these guys can run well and do well to keep up win coverage but they all have shown that they can have real trouble playing the ball in the air. With their lack of size, Louisville should look to exploit this on Saturday. It could be a good opportunity to get their passing game going.

A good illustration of how the Maine game went is Devon Key getting a pick six to give them a two score lead in the first quarter and then missing an open field tackle to give up a long touchdown catch and run in the second quarter. Key and Drell Greene are solid safeties but they both have had some issues with tackling in space and coverage. Western will run a good amount of man coverage with Key covering a slot guy or a safety. Greene has been a deep safety more often but they both really need to be able to do more in run support. The coverage issues are a little less frequent but they have to play downhill in this defense and make plays on the edge. Unfortunately, that’s where Wisconsin and Maine found success running the ball.