The best team in the league over the last two seasons was returning a good portion of the core, including talented QB Mike White, and yet managed only 25.5 points per game this past year.
The dynamism of the offense under the departed Jeff Brohm was gone. Mike Sanford Jr had the tough job of continuing the run while also bringing in his fresh ideas. On the surface, he failed. Looking deeper at the reasons — roster changes, motivation changes — show that this was not as easy job to take. Unfortunately for Sanford no one really cares.
The best win of the year was late in the season against Middle — always a fun ‘rivalry’ game with the Blue Raiders. The worst loss was a tie between the FIU late in the season and Georgia State bowl game.
The losses are not even the worst part — it is the offense that looks like it does not know what to do anymore. Sanford wants to run the ball, and yet the run game produced a mere 60 yards per game — down from 188+ last year. D’Andre Ferby stepped into the giant shoes left by Anthony Wales and did not impress.
Some of this was the scheme, and the loss of dynamism mentioned earlier. The defense dropped in quality, also, especially in the run game. The run defense allowed 2000 yards on 4.43 yards per carry, after only allowing around 1300 on 2.98 the year previous.
The combination of poor run game and worse run defense meant that Mike White was asked to do a ton. He was mostly successful, and that is a testament to his quality as a QB, but while he put up more yards per game, he did it on 14 more attempts per game. His yards per attempt, TDs, rating, and completion percentage were all down.
The hidden yards? Rush yards (sacks included) were down to -268 after averaging less than -100 in his previous three years. WKU went from allowing 1.57 sacks per contest in 2016 to allowing a league-worst 3.69 in ’17.
This is all obvious when you consider the run game was awful and Mike White was throwing the ball 44 times per game.
A down year for WKU was always likely given the change over. Now that White and Iyiegbuniwe are going gone, there are more questions than answers. FAU is ascendant and is the new Unstoppable Force offensively right when the Hilltoppers are losing their swagger.