WKU uses extra time for ULM prep

Head coach Willie Taggart and the WKU football team sing the WKU fight song. WKU won 26-13 against Arkansas State at Liberty Bank Stadium on Sep. 29, 2012.

Lucas Aulbach

The Toppers didn’t have a game this weekend, but coach Willie Taggart said his players didn’t have the weekend off.

With a game against an upstart Louisiana-Monroe team looming, Taggart said his players spent the weekend in the film room studying their next opponent.

“We need to know everything we can about this football team,” he said. “We used that time to try and give us a little jump on them and try to figure these guys out, because they’re playing really well right now.”

WKU (5-1, 2-0 Sun Belt Conference) took care of business on the road on Thursday, scoring a 31-26 win over Troy, but some players weren’t thrilled with the win.

The Toppers had to battle back from a double-digit deficit for the second consecutive game and overcame five fumbles, two of which were lost, against the Trojans.

Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes said the Toppers came into Troy expecting the game to be ugly.

“We knew we were gonna have to fight,” he said. “It was a Sun Belt game playing away, we just had to stick together and play football.”

Taggart wasn’t discouraged by the close game, though. He said discouraged members of the team need to look at the bigger picture.

“There’s no frustration,” he said. “We’re 5-1 — no reason to be frustrated around here.”

Jakes and junior running back Antonio Andrews were responsible for the fumbles and Taggart said both will carry footballs around campus this week, a tactic the coach used after WKU fumbled the ball three times against Alabama earlier this year.

He said the punishment has been so successful, he’s using it at his own home — Taggart’s 6-year-old son is carrying a ball around this week after fumbling at the 2-yard line in his youth league game over the weekend as well.

“You’ve got to teach them early, say ‘Don’t do that again,’” Taggart said.

The Toppers will face a Louisiana-Monroe team on Saturday that has had a strong start to the year as well.

The Warhawks beat then-No. 8 Arkansas in their season-opener and lost their next two games, against Auburn and Baylor, by a combined eight points.

Senior right guard Adam Smith said a big win this Homecoming weekend would help WKU regain some momentum after playing in two consecutive come-from-behind road wins.

“Every game’s a big game, but some of them just seem a little bit bigger,” Smith said. “I definitely think this is one of those games for us because Monroe’s been playing very well, and I feel like we’ve been playing pretty well ourselves.

“It’s definitely a big test for this program and can really define our season for us if we let it.”

A 3 p.m. kickoff is scheduled to accommodate all of the Homecoming festivities.

Taggart said he doesn’t expect those Homecoming activities to distract his team leading up to the game.

“We have a sign up in our office that says, ‘We support no cause, foreign or domestic, other than winning the Sun Belt championship,’” he said. “That’s our approach this week.”