Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Willie Taggart gets "Uncle Mo" riding high at Western Kentucky

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart says it's good to have "Uncle Mo" rolling with the Hilltoppers after they won their second straight game.

WKU (2-4, 2-1 Sun Belt Conference) has plenty of "Uncle Mo" — Taggart's moniker for momentum — heading into Saturday's game against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Hilltoppers beat Middle Tennessee State two weeks ago and shut out Florida Atlantic 20-2 last weekend.

The wins were the Hilltoppers' first back-to-back victories since 2007.

"You always want 'Uncle Mo' on your side," Taggart said. "Whenever he's on our side, good things will happen. As soon as he jumps to the other side, you go, 'Aw, man.'"

The former Manatee High standout quarterback and the Hilltoppers know that feeling all too well.

Western Kentucky was coming off a win over Louisiana-Lafayette that ended its nation-leading 26-game losing streak when the Hilltoppers folded in their 33-6 homecoming loss to North Texas.

"We had a young football team that couldn't handle all the things that were going on off the field," Taggart said. "I thought we let them get too involved in that and had a lot of pats on the backs."

They get a shot at homecoming redemption on Saturday.

WKU plays Louisiana-Lafayette in its homecoming, but the Ragin' Cajuns are a better team than the one the Hilltoppers beat last year. However, a win over the Sun Belt leaders would push the Hilltoppers into contention for their first league championship.

That has been the well-advertised goal of Taggart and his players. It started becoming a reality, Taggart said, after they parlayed a 44-16 loss last month to Indiana State into fixing what was wrong with the Hilltoppers.

"We were banking on it to be because it was a bad time for our program and everything that we were trying to build," Taggart said. "It was good for our football team to come together and believe in each other more than anything."

WKU won again last weekend despite some special teams miscues. Kickers Casey Tinius and Monte Merrick combined to miss three field goal attempts and an extra point.

With kickers a combined 2 of 20 this season — the worst percentage in the Football Bowl Subdivision — Taggart plans to turn to freshman Jesse Roy against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The kicking gaffes didn't matter as WKU 's defense produced a shutout, which included holding the Owls to 121 yards of total offense.

Defensive lineman Kenny Martin said the Hilltoppers are "confident."

"Right now, we got a lot of belief on the team," Martin said. "Everybody's feeding off of each other's energy. Everybody's loving everyone. We've never had it before. Everybody's happy with what's going on and ready to keep it going."

WKU hasn't won at home win since September of 2008 in a losing skid that dates back to September of 2008.

A home win would put a stop to talk of losing streaks — and also ensure "Uncle Mo" is staying on the Hilltoppers' side.

"After we won at MTSU I definitely felt (momentum) then," said defensive back Kareem Peterson. "To come out and shut out FAU — it's rolling now. It's rolling and we aren't going to stop."

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