Toppers rebounding from overtime loss

Louisiana-Monroe University quarterback, Kolton Browning (15), completes a two point conversion pass to wide receiver, Rashon Ceaser (81), to win against WKU in overtime, 43-42, on Saturday. Louisiana-Monroe takes first place in the sun belt tournament.

Lucas Aulbach

No one is happy with a loss, but coach Willie Taggart at least seemed content after falling in overtime to Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

Taggart was upbeat when he spoke at his weekly media luncheon on Monday following the 43-42 loss.

“No one was happy with that loss —we’ve set an expectation around here now and we’re trying to live up to that expectation,” he said. “So, we’ve got to bounce back, get back to work and get back to doing what we can do.”

He was calm in the wake of a painful loss to a top-tier Sun Belt Conference team. Saturday’s Homecoming game had been hyped as one of the biggest Sun Belt games in conference history — both teams were undefeated in the conference and it was the first meeting between two SBC schools that were currently receiving poll votes.

WKU (5-2, 2-1 SBC) rushed to an early 28-7 lead before going into halftime leading 28-21. A second half dogfight sent the game into overtime tied 35-35.

The Toppers scored first on a nine-yard rush from senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes, and the ensuing extra point gave them a seven-point lead.

ULM took over on offense and needed just four plays to put six points on the board. The Warhawks elected to go for the two-point conversion to win the game in one play, and ULM quarterback found wide receiver Rashon Ceaser in the end zone to spoil WKU’s Homecoming.

Senior defensive tackle Rammell Lewis said the Toppers will have to live down that painful moment and move on.

“We have no choice to get over it,” Lewis said. “It’s not like there’s a time machine where we can go back and replay the two-point conversion. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

The loss dampened what was a good game on paper for the Toppers.

Jakes had one of his best days in a WKU uniform with 308 passing yards and four touchdown throws, both career highs. He added another score on the ground in overtime.

His receiving targets benefited from Jakes’ big day as well. Sophomore wide receiver Willie McNeal pulled in seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown while senior tight end Jack Doyle had a career-high two touchdown catches as well.

Taggart said he was pleased to see his team upset that they lost but urged them not to take it too seriously — WKU has five games left on its schedule.

“Our guys were crushed and it was good they were crushed, because they hate losing — I love that about them,” he said. “But I didn’t want that feeling like it’s been before when we lost games… We’ve just got to get back to work.”

WKU’s first shot to bounce back from the disappointing loss comes this Saturday in Miami, where the Toppers will take on Florida International.

FIU (1-7, 0-4 SBC) was picked in the preseason by Sun Belt coaches to be conference champions at the end of the year. They haven’t lived up to that hype, but McNeal said the Toppers will be ready if this is the game where the Panthers finally figure it out.

“Every game is a good opportunity,” he said. “We’re always playing to see how good we can compete against ourselves, basically. With FIU being 1-7, I expect FIU to come out with everything.”