Toppers fall short in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

Offensive line coordinator Walt Wells comforts freshman kicker Garrett Schwettman after WKU’s first ever bowl game. WKU lost 24-21.

Lucas Aulbach

DETROIT – The Toppers played to win in Wednesday’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl but came up literally inches short.

Trailing Central Michigan 24-21 with 19 yards to the end zone and 51 seconds left in the game, interim coach Lance Guidry called his team to a huddle to discuss what to do.

The Toppers elected to go for the win instead of settle for a field goal. But when senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes’ pass sailed though the fingertips of senior tight end Jack Doyle, WKU’s season effectively ended with a loss.

The Toppers fell to the Chippewas in the first FBS bowl game in school history.

The pass may have gone just inches too far, but Guidry said it wasn’t the only play that caused WKU to lose.

“We left some plays out there on the field,” the coach said. “A couple of interceptions, a couple of big plays in the passing game. Sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

Jakes took responsibility for the failure to convert, though Guidry disagreed with him.

“Me personally, I don’t think I made the throw,” Jakes said. “If I would have just put the ball in the right spot he wouldn’t have had to dive for it and that wouldn’t have been a circus catch.”

Guidry – who said after the game he expects to be looking for a new job soon with new coach Bobby Petrino taking over the program – said he agreed with the call his players made.

“The players wanted it,” Guidry said after the game. “Everyone said go for it. I’d do it every time and twice on Sunday.”

Guidry isn’t the only one who will not be back next season – the 32 seniors on the team played their last game for WKU in Detroit.

Jakes, one of those seniors, might have fallen short on the last play, but he left his mark on the program by setting a new WKU record for career touchdown passes with 51. He finished 10-of-17 for 199 yards and a touchdown. He also picked up a touchdown on the ground in the first quarter on a six-yard rush.

Doyle was his favorite target of the evening, finishing with six catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown catch, which came midway through the second quarter, was a highlight of the night. After taking the snap at the 11-yard line, Jakes rolled to his right after the pocket collapsed and found Doyle in the back corner of the end zone. He almost overthrew the tight end, but Doyle was able to pull in a one-handed catch to seal the deal.

Jakes said that play was vintage Doyle.

“Jack’s just a football player,” he said. “He’s probably one of the hardest workers on the team, and he does things like that. I wish he would have made that last catch, but hey, man, I love that guy.”

Junior running back Antonio Andrews capped of his historic year with another strong performance but fell 89 yards short of breaking the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season set by Barry Sanders.

“I fell short, but hey, I’ve got another season to go get it,” he said. “I fell short by I don’t know how many yards, but it is what it is.”

Andrews did break one record, though – he passed former running back Bobby Rainey for most rushing yards in a season.

Andrews finished with 1,728 rushing yards on the year, breaking the record Rainey set last season. He also carried the ball 65 times less than Rainey, who finished last season with 1,695 yards on the ground.

Andrews and Jakes weren’t the only record-breakers of the night. Senior punter Hendrix Brakefield set a Little Caesars Bowl record in the first quarter when one of his punts sailed 74 yards – CMU punter Richie Hogan booted a punt 82 yards minutes later, setting a new record for the bowl game.

WKU finishes the year at 7-6 with the loss. He might not be back next year, but Guidry said the future is bright for the team he’s leaving behind.

“These guys are going to get to a lot of bowls in the future – this is a good experience for them,” he said.