ULM beats WKU on overtime two-point conversion

Defensive back, Jonathan Dowling leans against the field goal after the Louisiana-Monroe won the game. With the game in overtime, the Warhawks ran in a two-point conversion leaving the score 43-42.

Lucas Aulbach

WKU’s luck ran out at home on Saturday as Louisiana-Monroe handed the Toppers their first conference loss of the season, 43-42 in overtime.

ULM quarterback Kolton Browning rushed for an overtime touchdown and completed the ensuing two-point conversion to secure the win in front of a sellout crowd.

The Toppers hadn’t lost a Sun Belt Conference game since Oct. 1, 2011, but were done in by the Warhawks at Smith Stadium.

WKU was dominant for the first part of the game, rushing to a 28-7 lead in the second quarter before letting ULM score two touchdowns before halftime.

Coach Willie Taggart said if the Toppers would have stayed as focused as they were in the early goings they would be walking away with a win.

“We didn’t step on their throat when we had them down,” he said. “We let them back in and that’s what happens when you let a good football team back in the game.”

A back-and-forth second half went to overtime after the Warhawks tied the game at 35-35 with 31 seconds to go.

ULM won the toss and gave WKU the ball first in the overtime period. The Toppers scored on a nine-yard run by senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes during their possession before giving the ball back to ULM.

Taggart said the Toppers cannot afford to overthink this loss in the coming days.

“We’re going to be ticked off for 24 hours but we’re moving on to the next one,” he said. “That’s only our second loss on the season. We’ve got five more ballgames and we don’t have time to sit around and pout.”

Senior tight end Jack Doyle echoed that sentiment.

“We go by the 24-hour rule, so that’s what we’ve got to do,” he said. “It’s up to the seniors to get this team to get over the loss and move on. We’ve got to go play our next game.”

The loss diminishes what was a good performance by several WKU players.

Jakes had his best game as a Topper on paper, throwing for 308 yards and four touchdowns, setting a career-high in yardage and becoming the first WKU quarterback to throw for over 300 yards since J.J. Jewell threw for 354 yards in a 1994 game.

Jakes’ best fell just short, though, as Browning left Smith Stadium as the winning passer. Browning had 308 yards and four touchdowns as well while adding 87 rushing yards and another score on the ground.

Jakes said he knew coming into the game that the Toppers were going to have their hands full. The Warhawks boasted the only other undefeated conference record and gained national attention earlier this year when they beat then-No. 8 Arkansas in overtime.

Ironically, ULM also overcame a 28-7 deficit in that win.

“They play really hard, with a lot of heart and passion,” Jakes said. “You knew they were going to fight to the end.”

Sophomore wide receiver Willie McNeal set a new personal best in yards in a breakout performance, catching seven passes, including several long balls, for a total of 120 yards and a touchdown.

Senior tight end Jack Doyle also had one of his best games in the loss. He caught six passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game in his career at WKU. Freshman wide receiver Austin Aikens had the other touchdown catch.

Junior running back Antonio Andrews added 104 rushing yards and a touchdown to the mix.

WKU will have to shake the loss off this week – the Toppers will be back at it next Saturday when they take on Florida International in Miami.