WKU comes back to beat Troy 31-26

Lucas Aulbach

TROY, Ala. — The Toppers turned it up in the second half again on Thursday to beat Troy on the road 31-26.

It was far from a perfect game. WKU (5-1, 2-0 Sun Belt Conference) fumbled the ball five times, losing possession on two of them, and was plagued by fouls throughout the evening, but made plays when it mattered to seal the victory.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win,” coach Willie Taggart said. “We’ll take it however it comes.”

Taggart was right — it wasn’t pretty. The teams combined for a total of 15 penalties, with six coming against the Toppers and nine against Troy. There were also three instances of offsetting personal foul penalties after the play ended.

He wasn’t perfect, but senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes ran the offense well enough to get the win in his first action since he injured his knee against Arkansas State.

He finished 21-of-31 for 255 yards and three touchdowns. He had trouble holding on to the ball at times, though, and recorded three fumbles, though only one was recovered by the Trojans.

“It wasn’t our best game but we stuck it out and we fought,” Jakes said. “We knew we were going to have to fight — it’s a Sun Belt game, we were playing away, we just had to stick together and play football.”

Jakes fared better than the Trojan quarterbacks. Junior Corey Robinson, Troy’s starter, went 6-of-11 for 106 yards and a touchdown in the first half but left the game at the end of the second quarter after a hard hit from junior linebacker Bar’ee Boyd. He did not return.

His replacement, junior Deon Anthony, did better — he went 9-of-16 for 147 yards and a touchdown while picking up 26 yards on the ground.

The WKU defense got off to a rough start but got stronger as the game progressed. They held Troy to nine second half points after coming back from a double-digit first half deficit.

The Topper defense had one of the biggest plays of the game with six minutes left when they stopped the Trojans on 4th-and-short in Troy territory, which led to a WKU field goal with 1:12 to go.

“We bend but don’t break,” junior safety Kiante Young said about the defense. “People will score on us but we always buckle down and get the win. We get it done. We have warriors on our defense.”

Junior running back Antonio Andrews had an up-and-down game for the Toppers as well. He ran for 113 yards, the third consecutive game he’s gone over 100 yards, but also fumbled twice. Only one was recovered by Troy.

Taggart said the reason for the slow performance might have been too much time off. WKU didn’t have a game over the weekend and hadn’t played a regular season game since Sept. 29.

“I told our kids in the locker room that I have to blame it on something and the only thing I can blame it on is the bye week,” he said. “We just had a week off and didn’t come out. We weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be.”

WKU will have a week and a half to sharpen up. The Toppers won’t be back on the field until Oct. 20, when they face Louisiana-Monroe at home.

Taggart said that an ugly win could actually help the Toppers in the long run.

“We knew we didn’t play our best ball game, but it was good that our kids found a way to win that game,” he said. “Throughout the year you’re going to have those games where it’s close or not pretty but great teams find a way to win games and our guys did tonight.”