BOZICH | Western Kentucky gets its Shock The World moment in Dea - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Western Kentucky gets its Shock The World opportunity in Death Valley

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WKU coach Jeff Brohm brought his father, Oscar, and son, Brady, to LSU this weekend. WKU coach Jeff Brohm brought his father, Oscar, and son, Brady, to LSU this weekend.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WDRB) – Jeff Brohm has not coached in many college football games where nobody outside the Western Kentucky locker room believed the Hilltoppers could win.

Brohm will coach in one Saturday night in Tiger Stadium against Louisiana State. The Tigers are ranked fifth in the nation. They’re the last unbeaten team in the Southeastern Conference.

They attack with the best running back America, Leonard Fournette, a guy Brohm calls “a cross between Gale Sayers and Earl Campbell.” That means Brohm believes Fournette is spectacular. The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing offense with Fournette crackling to 14 of their 21 rushing touchdowns.

“Leonard Fournette runs angry,” WKU secondary coach Mike Cassity said.

No wonder LSU is favored by 16 ½ points against a WKU team that has won six of its seven games. Heck, the Tigers scheduled the Hilltoppers for Homecoming. WKU athletic director Todd Stewart said that he expects 1,000 Hilltoppers' fans to make the trip, only 100,000 fewer than the home team.

“We’re going to a big stadium with 100,000 plus,” Brohm said. “People are picking us to lose. LSU is traditionally a very good team every year. Their offense is better than it has been.

“Our guys are jacked up. All of our guys have a chip on their shoulders. They think they’ve been overlooked and maybe could have played at a bigger school in front of this kind of crowd every week.  But they’re excited where they’re at. They’re excited to represent this university. They’re looking forward to the challenge.

“Any time you try to pull off the impossible, if you can do it, it’s very rewarding and it really makes you feel happy.”

Mike LaCett and I traveled with the Hilltoppers from Bowling Green to Baton Rouge Friday for a behind-the-scenes look at how Brohm, his assistant coaches and talented team prepared for their moment in Death Valley at 7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday.

I’ll have a game story at WDRB.com Sunday morning and we’ll have a TV report for WDRB News on Sunday. Then we’ll deliver longer stories on television and for WDRB.com Thursday.

“Everybody has just been relishing the moment all week,” said WKU receiver Taywan Taylor, a product of Pleasure Ridge Park High School. “We’ve just been excited.

“It’s an opportunity that everybody’s been waiting for -- 102,000 people. That’s all you’ve got to say. That sums it all up. The crowd, the animosity, the build-up. I think everybody is focused. This is a challenge for us."

A challenge that begins with defeating a bigger, faster, stronger, deeper team with a group of players that likely never received a phone call from LSU recruiters.

“I didn’t get any recruiting mail from LSU," Taylor said. "That would have been a dream, a big dream.

“We didn’t have anybody on this team with any big-time offers. I don’t think anybody had any big-time offers like that. This is the chance of a lifetime for most of us.”

I asked Brohm if this game stirred memories of one game that he played when he quarterbacked the University of Louisville.

Brohm as well as his brother Greg, WKU’s director of football operations, and father Oscar (who also made the trip) knew which game I wanted him to replay.

He did not play in many college football games where nobody outside the U of L locker room thought the Cardinals could win.

Brohm did play in one – Sept. 5, 1992 at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes had Robert Smith, Eddie George, Joey Galloway, Korey Stringer, Big Daddy Wilkinson, Kirk Herbstreit and a few other guys that played in the NFL.

Louisville had coach Howard Schnellenberger preaching the one thing that he always preached – anything is possible.

With 33 seconds left, U of L halfback Ralph Dawkins scored from the 2 yard line to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 20-19.

Schnellenberger did not play to tie. He played to win. Forget kicking the extra point. U of L went for two.

Brohm was rushed out of the pocket by an unblocked Wilkinson, a guy who was later the first pick in the NFL Draft. Brohm was forced to his left. He saw Dawkins, open, in the end zone on a crossing pattern.

But running in the direction of his non-throwing arm, Brohm threw a pass that sailed away from Dawkins. The Cardinals lost.

“I overthrew a wide open receiver in the end zone,” Brohm said.

“To be honest with you, after that game, every day for the rest of my career I worked on running full speed to the left, turning my shoulder and making that throw. Just because you remember what could have been if you found a way to do it.

“I remember a lot. I had the opportunity to play for a great coach in coach Schnellenberger. And really, his number one trait was that he had the ability to make his players believe they could achieve a lot more than they normally could.

“Sometimes he did that by saying outlandish things that people in the public questioned, like, ‘Holy Cow, he’s out there.’ And he probably was stretching the truth quite a bit.

“A lot of times if your head coach is that willing to sell his head coach to everybody, then the team starts to think, ‘Well, heck, if he really thinks that then maybe we can.’ So he had that great ability to make you believe you were a lot better than you were.

“I’m sure we weren’t near as good as Ohio State, but that day we played toe to toe with them. It went down to the wire and we didn’t get it on the two-point conversion. But opportunities like this are why you love to compete.”

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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