Willie Taggart

Taggart lands a raise from WKU

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Playing in just its fourth season at the Div. 1-A level, Western Kentucky earns seven wins in 2011 and should’ve qualified for its first bowl game in the program’s history.

As a result of that turnaround from a two-win season in 2010, though, the man who will lead the Hilltoppers into the offseason will do so armed with a new deal.

In a release, WKU announced that head coach Willie Taggart has agreed to a new four-year contract with the school.  The release states that the contract begins on January 1, 2012, and includes an automatic one-year rollover on December 31 of each year through 2019.

Taggart’s annual salary will more than double under the new deal, going from $225,000 in 2011 to $475,000 in 2012.  Additionally, the budget for Taggart’s assistant coaches will increase by 20 percent.

“This is a much deserved new contract for Coach Taggart, and we are pleased to demonstrate this level of commitment to him and the entire WKU football program,” athletic director Ross Bjork said.  “Our second place finish in the Sun Belt Conference and 7-1 league record illustrates perfectly the significant impact Willie has had on our program since taking over just two seasons ago.  We successfully competed on a consistent basis following our bye week in September, which is a tremendous credit to our entire coaching staff and players.  In addition to helping our players develop and succeed on the field, Coach Taggart cares deeply about his players as both students and people.  All 12 of our seniors are on schedule to graduate this year, and our 959 APR ranks second in the conference.  We also have had the conference’s top-rated recruiting class each of the last two seasons.  Quite simply, every aspect of our program has improved under his watch and we are excited about the future.”

“I sincerely appreciate the commitment made by Dr. Ransdell, Ross and the WKU administration,” Taggart said.  “I am very humbled by this show of support, and I will earn every bit of it.  As I often say, ‘WKU is in my DNA’ and this is where I want to be.  We had a very good season this year in many respects, and I would like to thank my coaching staff and our players for their hard work, dedication and sacrifices to the cause.  While we made great strides this year in many areas, we still have work to do to continue this program’s rise to achieving national respect.  We need to perform better in non-conference games, and we need to fill Houchens-Smith Stadium on a consistent basis.  Our program and the Hilltopper Nation can achieve anything we desire.  We are looking forward to signing another strong recruiting class and beginning preparations for the 2012 season, and spring practice begins in just over three months.  Go Tops!”

WKU was 2-22 in the two seasons prior to Taggart’s arrival; in the past two years, the Hilltoppers have compiled a 9-15 record, including a 7-5 mark this year.

LOOK: TCU to wear debut new chrome helmets for game vs. Oklahoma

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As someone loathe to post on the myriad uniform combinations that college football teams toss out there on an almost weekly basis, I have to admit that these are… not bad. At all.

Quite fresh looking, actually.

Ahead of their black-out game against Oklahoma Saturday, TCU unveiled a new chrome helmet that the Horned Frogs will wear against the Sooners.  The helmets feature purple facemasks and a rather large purple horned frog on each side of it.

While all of that stuff, the helmets and uniforms and cleats and gloves and the like, are mainly for the benefit of recruits and current players, I and my particular demographic would have to give it a hearty thumbs up.  Which I’m certain means the world to the football program.

Longtime starting WKU safety likely out for remainder of 2016

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Calvin Ridley #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes away from Marcus Ward #8 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Like they have the last couple of weeks, Western Kentucky will have to get used to Marcus Ward not patrolling its defensive secondary on game days.

Ward (pictured, left) injured his knee in Week 2 and has not returned to the playing field.  Unfortunately for the player and the football program, that absence will continue as the safety underwent surgery on the knee, which is expected to sideline him for the remainder of the 2016 season.

This may not be the last of the fourth-year senior in a Hilltopper uniform, though, as Ward has yet to use his redshirt season and would have a medical waiver at his disposal even if he had.  It’s unclear, however, if Ward will return for another season or rather make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.

Ward has started a total of 31 games since his true freshman season in 2013, including 26 the previous two seasons.  He was named preseason second-team All-Conference USA prior to the start of the 2016 season.

Perhaps more importantly, he was named a semifinalist earlier this month as a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.

No. 10 Washington becomes Pac-12 front-runner after Friday night thrashing of No. 7 Stanford

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Quarterback Keller Chryst #10 of the Stanford Cardinal is hit as he throws by linebacker Connor O'Brien #29 and linebacker Psalm Wooching #28 of the Washington Huskies on September 30, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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All summer long, people wondered why Washington was getting so much preseason love.

After Friday night’s 44-6 thrashing of Stanford in front of a national audience, nobody is wondering anymore about the Huskies.

The sophomore backfield combo of quarterback Jake Browning (210 yards, three touchdowns) and Myles Gaskin (an even 100 yards rushing, two scores) once again powered Washington to a big win, with the offense scoring on all but two full drives on a night where everything went right for the purple and gold.

Defensively is where the Huskies really impressed though. The team swarmed to the ball on every snap, forced two fumbles, racked up eight sacks and kept Stanford under three yards a play for most of the night. The normally reliable Christian McCaffrey was kept in check in remarkable fashion, rushing for just 49 yards on 12 carries.

Just six days after a remarkable comeback win at UCLA, there wasn’t much left in the tank for a Stanford team that was missing two starting cornerbacks and just couldn’t get anything going offensively on the road in a hostile environment. Quarterback Ryan Burns did throw for 151 yards and a touchdown but was under siege most of the night thanks to some shaky play up front from the normally reliable Cardinal offensive line.

The win by Washington certainly establishes Chris Petersen’s team as the Pac-12 favorite — at the very minimum — with a chance to all but punch their ticket to the conference title game next week at Pacific Northwest rival Oregon. If the Huskies continue to look like they did on Friday in Seattle though, a berth in the College Football Playoff is certainly going to be in the cards as well.

No. 10 Washington putting on a show with big first half against No. 7 Stanford

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Head coach David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal looks on prior to the game against the Washington Huskies on September 30, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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On the first offensive play of the night for Stanford, the Cardinal picked up a first down thanks to a face mask penalty.

It was all downhill from there for the Cardinal.

No. 10 Washington lived up to their high preseason billing on Friday night by manhandling the defending Pac-12 champions in just about every way possible to jump out to a 23-0 halftime lead.

Quarterback Jake Browning threw just three incompletions on his way to 167 yards and two touchdowns and the Huskies looked every bit the part of a top five team in a wild, vintage atmosphere on Montlake. While the offense was impressive, the Washington defense was swarming as well, racking up six sacks in the game so far.

Stanford couldn’t get anything going offensively, averaging just 2.8 yards per play in the first half. Superstar Christian McCaffrey was held mostly in check, with just eight yards receiving and 31 on the ground.

To add injury to the insult of that first half, the Cardinal’s best defender — defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — was injured in the second quarter with a lower leg injury. The team is already without both its starting cornerbacks for the game so it could be a long second half for the visitors.

The game isn’t over yet and there’s plenty of #Pac12AfterDark potential but that was quite a statement made by Chris Petersen’s Huskies in the first half in establishing their credentials for the College Football Playoff.