Western Kentucky Hopes For a "Rainey" Night Against USF

Calvin W BoazCorrespondent IISeptember 25, 2010

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 04:  Jared Crick #94 and Baker Steinkuhler #55 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers take a bead on Bobby Rainey of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during first half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Nebraska defeated Western Kentucky 49-10. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

When Western Kentucky takes on the University of South Florida today in Tampa, Fla., the Hilltoppers will attempt to end their 23-game losing streak.

In order to finally win a game, WKU has to produce a phenomenal effort from its starting running back Bobby Rainey.  

So far this season, Rainey has 444 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 73 carries. He ranks fifth in the FBS in rushing, averaging 148 yards on the ground per game.

Rainey may not have been known nationally when the season commenced, but he made his mark early when he gained 155 yards on 30 carries against the Blackshirt defense of Nebraska in Western Kentucky's first game of the season.

He also rushed for 184 yards against Kentucky and 105 yards against Indiana. 

Not often utilized as a receiving threat, Rainey is more than halfway to his career high of 13 catches in a season.

The 5'7" junior caught the attention of Sun Belt coaches in 2009 when he gained 939 yards rushing and scored six rushing touchdowns on 144 carries. As a redshirt freshman, Rainey averaged 6.9 yards per carry on 35 attempts.

Rainey could be making more of an impact offensively if new head coach Willie Taggart had not removed him from kickoff return duties.

Last season, Rainey broke seasonal school records with 44 returns and 1,050 net yards last year. He ranked second in the Sun Belt in all-purpose yards in 2009.

Despite all of Rainey's accomplishments this season, the Hilltoppers still struggle offensively. This year, the team averages less than 20 points a game and ranks 114th in passing offense and 104th in total offense.

There is room for improvement on offense, but sophomore Kawaun Jakes has taken hold of the quarterback position and has found a reliable target in tight end Jack Doyle.

Against Indiana, freshman Donald Campbell showed his potential as both a wide receiver and a kick returner. Rainey could be more of an asset on offense if the defense would allow Western Kentucky to run the ball frequently for all four quarters.

The Hilltoppers had have trouble all season stopping anyone, allowing 50 points per game and almost 300 yards per game through the air.

Against USF, the defense has to keep short completions from turning into big gains to stay in the game.

Limiting sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels' ability to scramble out of the pocket is an important factor as well. Last year against USF, the Hilltoppers lost 35-13 as Rainey gained 56 yards on eight carries and had 110 yards on kick returns.

He would need to almost triple those rushing yards for the Hilltoppers to win this game.

Regardless of the final outcome, it will be interesting to see if Rainey can pour it on against the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.