Aulbach: Costly mistakes hurt Toppers this week

WKU head coach Bobby Petrino lowers his head after a play. WKU lost 52-20 against Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Lucas Aulbach

The Toppers overcame a few costly mistakes against Kentucky last week to pull out the win over the in-state rival but Saturday, Tennessee made them pay.

The mistakes WKU made against the Volunteers were greater in number and in consequence this week — seven (seven!) total turnovers, including five in a six-play span in the first quarter, back-to-back pick-six’s, and a 31-3 deficit less than a minute into the second quarter. Tennessee alum Peyton Manning could have taken over for Brandon Doughty and he would’ve had a hard time bringing the Toppers back into the game.

Coach Bobby Petrino said afterwards that he had never been through anything like the first quarter — which featured three interceptions, two fumbles, and 24 points for Tennessee — and I believe him. It got to the point where people in the Neyland Stadium press box were looking up the NCAA record for the most turnovers committed in consecutive drives (Florida owns it, by the way, with seven).

After the game, the coach didn’t make it a secret that he wanted his team to forget about this game and move on.

“As soon as we get done with the video tomorrow, we need to bury it, get a positive attitude, and move forward,” Petrino said in his postgame press conference.

The turnovers put a damper on any of the positive signs the Toppers showed against the best opponent on their 2013 schedule.

Senior running back Antonio Andrews overcame a costly early fumble to finish with 111 yards on 13 carries and looked good on a 43-yard reception in the second quarter, while sophomore Leon Allen showed WKU’s depth at the position with a couple of good runs in the second quarter.

The Topper defense gave up 38 points (14 came off of pick-six’s) but the group was thrown into the fire on several possessions where the offense gave the ball up deep in WKU territory. Much of the defense looked solid through the second and third quarters before getting worn out late.

But when it comes down to it, you can’t give the ball up seven times and expect to win the game. Junior quarterback Brandon Doughty showed why he’s WKU’s starter last week against Kentucky. After throwing five picks against the Volunteers, he was benched for sophomore Damarcus Smith in the fourth quarter.

Doughty isn’t responsible for all five picks — the first one was tipped by freshman wide receiver Taywan Taylor before being returned for a touchdown, and the second interception, another TD, was a good play by Tennessee defensive back Cameron Sutton. But mistakes were made, with the worst coming on a fourth quarter pick in the end zone where Doughty, with nothing but green in front of him, threw it across his body on a scramble instead of trying to take it to the house himself.

Still, this game should be looked at as a learning experience.

Even without the turnovers, the Toppers were facing an uphill battle against the Volunteers — WKU was outscored 21-3 in the second half, with only one pick coming in that time.

Tennessee is an SEC team — the best team on WKU’s schedule — and this loss should bring the expectations for the Topper team back to Earth.

WKU will travel to Mobile, Ala., next Saturday to face a struggling South Alabama squad. It could be a good opportunity for the Toppers to get back on track after Saturday’s demoralizing loss.

Until then, the team should follow Bobby Petrino’s advice — watch the film, bury the video, and move on.