WKU falls flat against Florida Atlantic

WKU punter Hendrix Brakefield attempts to tackle FAU’s Travis Jones during the first half of the game Saturday afternoon.

Lucas Aulbach

Mistakes and miscues buried WKU at home Saturday, and dealt a critical blow to its bowl hopes in the process.

Florida Atlantic went into Smith Stadium and notched a 37-28 win against the Toppers, its first road win since October of 2010.

The loss to FAU (3-7, 2-4 SBC) marked the third straight home loss for WKU (6-4, 3-3 SBC), which has dropped two straight and three of four.

Coach Willie Taggart, who addressed the media alone after the game, said the Toppers have become a less-physical team as the season churns along.

“Winning can beget softness and right now, I think we’ve got a soft football team,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, we weren’t soft. We’ve got to find a way to get back to being physical.”

Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes had an up-and-down afternoon for the Toppers — he was responsible for 169 yards and two touchdowns through the air while gaining up 32 yards on the ground, but threw three costly interceptions.

Jakes was outdueled by FAU quarterback Graham Wilbert, who threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns.

Taggart, who said the blame for the loss should fall on his own shoulders, said the Toppers didn’t play a winning game on any side of the ball.

“Everything went wrong,” Taggart said. “We didn’t do anything well — offensively, defensively, or special teams — and when you don’t do anything well in any one of those phases, you lose.”

WKU scored on its first possession and played a close first half against the Owls — the two teams were tied 14-14 at halftime.

FAU was the stronger of the two in the second half, though, scoring a touchdown in the third quarter and never giving up the lead.

The Owls seemed poised to put the game away with a 10 point lead late in the fourth quarter, but junior linebacker Andrew Jackson forced a fumble which was recovered by senior defensive end Quanterus Smith.

Smith took it 75 yards to the end zone, cutting the lead to 31-28 with 1:55 to play and giving WKU a glimmer of hope.

The Toppers couldn’t handle the ensuing onside kick, though, and gave up an additional touchdown after a fumble with seconds to go on their final offensive play to seal the 37-28 win for FAU.

With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, the Toppers let the moment get the best of them, Taggart said.

“We’ve got to play like a veteran football team that’s been through all the adversities within the game,” he said. “What I see now, when things get tough we’re panicking rather than just being confident.”

Taggart said his team needs to move on from this loss as quickly as possible if they want to get their seventh win of the season next Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette (5-4, 3-2).

“Our kids are just trying to get seven (wins) — that was our goal this week, is try to get seven,” he said. “We didn’t do it and we’ve got to do a great job this week of going on the road against a tough Louisiana-Lafayette team.”