August 31, 2011

Defense looks to stop Rainey

Western Kentucky isn't where you'd usually find one of the nation's best running backs. But the Hilltoppers' Bobby Rainey is hardly your usual back.

Rainey, who was fifth in the country with 1,649 rushing yards last year, is the driving force behind the Western Kentucky offense. He led the nation in rushing attempts last year as the focal point of the Hilltoperes' offense. Stopping him is likely the key against WKU on Thursday night in Nashville (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

"When you're fifth in the country in rushing, you're pretty special regardless of what school you're at," co-defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. "He may be under the radar in some people's eyes because he's at Western, but he's not to the pro scouts. They know and most importantly, we know. Our players know his abilities."

Rainey also has a history of gashing the Kentucky defense. As a true freshman in 2008, he ran for 99 yards on nine carries while piling up 256 all-purpose yards. He did even better against the Wildcats last season, running for 184 yards and two touchdowns while averaging over eight yards per carry.

A year later, the Wildcats haven't forgotten about it.

"You cannot allow a team to rush for that many yards on you," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said. "Rushing yards demoralize you. You have to stop the run. When people are able to line up and run the ball, it's a slap in the face. Last year it was a slap in the face, the way they ran the ball on us."

To combat Rainey, Phillips said he's planning on using a rotation of hefty defensive tackles to wear down the offensive line. Junior Donte Rumph and sophomore Mister Cobble both tip the scales at easily over 300 pounds, and they'll both be key to stopping Rainey.

On film, Rainey shows up as an elusive back with good vision and balance. Kentucky is hardly the only major program Rainey has victimized. He ran for 155 yards against a vaunted Nebraska defense in the 2010 season opener and ran for 54 yards on just eight carries as a true freshman against Virginia Tech.

"He'll get a yard here, three yards there, then bam, he'll pop a 20-yarder," Brown said. "He's got great vision and their offensive line does a hell of a job blocking for him. You watch him on film and he's just moving along because there's nothing there, then he sees a little crack and he explodes through it."

The Wildcats have spent extra time watching film this week to prepare for Rainey. Senior linebacker Danny Trevathan said the team is focusing in on the details about Rainey.

"You have to know everything about him," Trevathan said. "His birthplace, everything. You have to learn this guy. He's a great athlete and we're studying him well."

Trevathan said he's definitely learned one thing about Rainey from all that film: He has to be stopped.

That's been a steep order for the Wildcats in the past. But it's still the most important thing the defense can do to slow down the Hilltoppers.

"He is their offense," Brown said. "Our key is to stop the run and you've got to stop Rainey."

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