WKU turns over second conference loss Tuesday to ULL

WKU’s Running Back Antonio Andrews stiff arms Louisiana’s defense during their game against Louisiana at Western Kentucky University on Tuesday, October 15, 2013. 

Elliott Pratt

WKU’s downfalls in its previous two losses were because of lack of execution in the second half of games. Much was the same Tuesday night as the Toppers’ high ride through a three-game win streak came crashing down at the curse of four turnovers and 254 yards rushing from Louisiana-Lafayette leading to a 37-20 loss in front of a national audience on ESPN2.

WKU was in control of the game for much of the first half and looked to go up big in on a 4th-and-goal call midway through the second quarter that coach Bobby Petrino would like to have back.

Junior quarterback Brandon Doughty rolled to his right on a play action pass and threw an interception to ULL defensive back Al Riles who returned it 99 yards for the score to cut the lead at 10-7.

It was that pick-six that shifted the energy to the Ragin’ Cajuns, who handed the Toppers their second conference loss of the year after outscoring WKU 24-7 in the second half.

“That’s a tough loss for us,” Petrino said. “We were in control in the first half and then we had a fourth and one and it was a bad call. The blame goes strictly to me. We had an opportunity to either kick a field goal or run the ball in, and I decided to run a play-action pass.”

“There are a lot of chances there,” Petrino said. “We had a lot of chances, but we weren’t able to make the plays. We have to be able to make the plays and it’s just not a good job of finding ways to win the game.”

ULL used 198 rushing yards in the second half and running back Alonzo Harris rushed for two touchdowns to wear down WKU by eating the clock. The Ragin’ Cajuns threw five passes in the entire second half resulting in a time of possession of 20:35 after only having the ball for just under 10 minutes in the first half.

ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said after some first half adjustments, his team was able to “play a very physical game”.

Senior cornerback Arius Wright said giving up 254 yards of rushing to a team is something the team must put aside in order to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“Going into every game you know a team’s going to run the ball so that’s the first thing you’ve got to be prepared for,” Wright said. “When you get the amount of yards running like they did then, what else can you expect from them to do but run the ball.

“It hurts a little bit because we pride ourselves on stopping the run, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. We just have to put the game behind us and move on to Troy.”

WKU had its own success running the ball as senior running back Antonio Andrews eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the year with 28 carries for 154 yards in the Toppers’ loss.

Doughty was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter and ended his night having completed 18-of-23 passes for 260 yards and a 14-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Mitchell Henry that came on the game’s opening drive.

Sophomore quarterback Nelson Fishback entered the game late and drove the Toppers on their final scoring drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Andrews. Fishback completed his night 5-of-6 for 78 yards.

WKU will have even more time between its next game than they had in the last break. The Toppers don’t play again until Oct. 26 when they host Troy for Homecoming.  

Redshirt junior wide receiver Joel German said he knows that Tuesday night’s loss made their hopes of a Sun Belt title that much more of a challenge.

“There was a lot at stake tonight,” German said. “We really want that Sun Belt Championship, but we have to put it behind us and work on Troy.”