WKU begins Sun Belt schedule with FAU

Forget Western Kentucky's goal of a 13th consecutive winning season in football.

Forget the 0-4 record against teams in the Bowl Championship Series, 2-5 overall.

Forget the five-game winning streak that is mandatory to finish the campaign above .500.

The Sun Belt Conference is watching what its next member in football will do with the rest of its season, five games against league foes starting with Florida Atlantic on Saturday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Western is in its final transition year before joining the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Hilltoppers Coach David Elson first wants his team to put together four quarters of football.

"A lot of it is just focus issues," Elson said of the Toppers. "We've played in some tough places, and we've had trouble with focus and execution.

"We can do a better job of play-calling across the board. We need to find a way to execute better overall."

Elson has sensed excitement during the week of practices.

"What I like about this run of Sun Belt teams is it gives guys something to look forward to," he said. "We can compare and contrast our record in the league as we play these games."

North Texas will be WKU's homecoming foe on Nov. 1. The Toppers will travel to Troy on Nov. 8 and welcome Middle Tennessee on Nov. 15. Western will finish Dec. 6 at Florida International.

The Toppers have struggled in losses to Bowl Subdivision opponents Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Ball State. They defeated Championship Subdivision foes Eastern Kentucky and Murray State.

The Toppers are on a three-game losing streak, forcing them to need wins in the final five to avoid their first losing season since the 1995 team was 2-8.

Western's strengths down the stretch, according to Elson, include a solid special teams game and the defensive front. David Wolke has provided leadership at quarterback since K.J. Black left the team after the Kentucky game.

"David knows we've left some plays on the field that he could've made," Elson said. "For all of us, it's a matter of putting together a complete game."

Western also has used running back Dexter Taylor at quarterback to exploit some option plays.

The biggest difference on offense, said Elson, was returning Greg Ryan to right guard from left tackle. "He solidified the line for us, and he's back where he belongs."