Football Toppers drop third straight

Lucas Aulbach

The Toppers played the victim to a late rally from Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, falling 31-27 to the Ragin’ Cajuns at Cajun Field in Lafayette, La.

WKU (6-5, 3-4 Sun Belt Conference) led 27-17 with less than four minutes to go but gave up two late touchdowns to seal its third consecutive loss.

The game was another big blow to WKU’s bowl hopes. The Toppers are bowl eligible but were not invited to a bowl after finishing 7-5 last season. With one game left, WKU can only hope to match that record this season.

Coach Willie Taggart said the loss comes down to poor tackling from the Topper defense, which gave up over 500 yards to the ULL offense.

“We fought hard, but we didn’t fight hard enough,” he told WKU radio. “We probably missed about 50 tackles out there. You miss tackles like that, you’re not going to win ballgames.”

It was a close game throughout the evening. WKU was able to stay in the game by committing just one turnover to ULL’s four, but couldn’t stop the Ragin’ Cajuns when it mattered most.

The ending was just as close as the game. With eight seconds left on the clock, senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes threw a Hail Mary pass to sophomore safety Jonathan Dowling, who was lined up at wide receiver.

Dowling caught the ball in the back of the end zone but was ruled out of bounds. It looked to be a close call but the referees did not review it before calling the game.

Taggart said he was confused as to why the play wasn’t reviewed, but said the loss falls on WKU.

“We got ourselves in that situation — it shouldn’t have even come down to that last play,” he said.

Even in the loss, junior running back Antonio Andrews was dominant — he had his best game in a stellar season against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

He rushed for a career-high 238 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries and accounted for over 300 all-purpose yards for the third consecutive game.

Taggart said a lot of the credit for his big night should go to the WKU offensive line.

“Our offensive line came and played like we knew we were capable of playing,” he said. “They really came in with the right mentality and Antonio just did an extraordinary job running the football. He was running through tackles and everything.”

The performances of senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes and ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway were night and day.

Broadway accounted for the majority of the Ragin’ Cajun offense — he threw for 255 yards and rushed for 145 more. He ran in the winning touchdown from 14 yards out with 37 seconds to go on his last offensive play of the night.

Jakes, meanwhile, was more conservative, completing 10-of-18 passes for 149 yards and an early interception.

The Toppers have one more chance to get that important seventh win. They will close out their regular season at home next Saturday against North Texas.

Taggart said his team is still motivated to get its upperclassmen in a bowl game.

“We’ll have to play a lot better than we played tonight and we owe it to these seniors to play a lot better than we played tonight,” he said. “We owe it to our seniors to go out and tackle like we’re supposed to and make sure we leave this season with a victory for these seniors at home.”