Western Kentucky’s first live scrimmage of fall camp was a tale of two tapes that left head coach Tyson Helton with mixed feelings. The Hilltoppers defense took control and never allowed the offense to get much more than three downfield plays.

Helton is the offensive-minded first-year coach promising to bring back the type of exciting offense WKU honed when he was previously an assistant in 2014 and ’15. He was rather matter-of-fact about his displeasure with decision-making and poor overall play by the offense Saturday.

“Offensively, we’ve got a ways to go,” Helton said. “We know what to do, it’s a matter of doing it, to be quite honest with you. That takes reps and takes time. I can sugarcoat it, but I’m not. The name of the game is putting up points. Being an explosive offense, we’re going to continue to do that. We’ve got to get a lot better.”

Saturday was the first of three closed scrimmages WKU has scheduled before the season opener Aug. 29 against Central Arkansas at Houchens-Smith Stadium, the second planned for Aug. 16 and a mock-game scheduled for Aug. 22.

Helton said the plan at this point is to start increasing reps for players he expects to be on the field most. Position battles still loom, and the coach confirmed Saturday he has come down to two quarterbacks for the starting job, but didn’t name anyone.

Helton called the decision-making “very poor” between Steven Duncan, Ty Storey, Davis Shanley and Kevaris Thomas. Duncan and Storey, the two upperclassmen with the most experience in that competition, each said Friday their goal for Saturday’s scrimmage was to move the ball and make quick, smart decisions. The head coach saw none of those things, but still gave the defense credit for making his quarterbacks’ jobs difficult.

“I thought they made bad decisions,” Helton said. “It’s hard to play quarterback when you’ve got pressure. It’s a team effort, it’s not all in the players, it’s the coaches. I love when the defense dominates. It’s a good thing. If we can hold them, we’ll be OK. I’m used to coming in and having to score a lot of points. Hopefully, we’ll get the offense where it needs to be.

“I’ll still rotate the two quarterbacks. I won’t make a decision there till probably next week or a little after that because I want to keep evaluating those guys.”

Helton said defense dominated the line of scrimmage, covered well, pressured the quarterback and stopped a number of runs for losses. WKU’s defensive unit enters its third season under Clayton White and didn’t make any position coaching changes other than adding Andy LaRussa to coach safeties.

“Defense did a fantastic job,” Helton said. “I thought they dominated the whole scrimmage. As a head coach that makes you feel good on one side of the ball. … My hat’s off to the defense today. They came in with the right mentality and the right attitude and they practiced like pros today.”{&end}

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.


Covering the Western Kentucky University athletics beat for the Bowling Green Daily News.

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