Four turnovers cost WKU first loss of season

WKU running back Kadeem Jones and Antonio Andrews fight for a fumble against Alabama’s defensive end Ed Stinson during the first quater of their game.

Lucas Aulbach

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Toppers met their match on Saturday against the top-ranked team in the country.

WKU (1-1) fell to No. 1 Alabama 35-0 on the road in their second game of the season.

It was the first shutout loss for WKU since Sept. 14, 2002, almost exactly 10 years ago. It was also WKU’s first scoreless game since joining the Football Bowl Subdivison.

Despite the difference in the score, though, the Toppers held their own in several areas of the game. Facing one of the top offensive lines in the nation, the WKU defensive line had six sacks, three coming from senior defensive end Quanterus Smith, and held Alabama to 103 rushing yards.

Though they never made it in the end zone, the Topper offense was able to move the ball up the field several times against a Crimson Tide defense that ranks as one of the best in the nation.

Turnovers, however, buried any shot WKU had at scoring. The Toppers had four turnovers in the game — three lost fumbles in the first half and in interception at the start of the third quarter. Alabama didn’t commit any turnovers.

“You turn the ball over four times against anybody in the country, especially the No. 1 team, and it’s not going to turn out good,” senior right guard Adam Smith said after the game.

Third year coach Willie Taggart echoed that sentiment.

“Not in a million years would I have thought they would have did that today,” Taggart said about the turnovers. “I thought we were locked into the gameplan and our goals and what we wanted to do. We just didn’t get it done.”

Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes was efficient under center for the Toppers for much of the game. He finished 20-of-31 for 178 yards and one pick.

Senior tight end Jack Doyle and junior running back Antonio Andrews were his favorite targets. Doyle had seven catches for 45 yards and Andrews had six for 52 while adding 31 yards on the ground.

Junior linebacker Andrew Jackson, lauded by Alabama coach Nick Saban earlier in the week, led the WKU defense with seven tackles.

The first half of the game was all Alabama. The Crimson Tide, helped by those three fumbles in WKU’s first six possessions, scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and one more in the second to take a 21-0 lead into halftime.

Things didn’t get any easier at the start of the second half. Jakes threw an interception on the run deep in WKU territory which led to Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s fourth and final touchdown throw of the game. The Tide added one more score at the end of the fourth quarter.

There’s not much shame in losing to Alabama on the road. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions with several potential first-round NFL Draft picks on both sides of the ball.

Taggart said he was impressed with his team in every aspect but ball control.

“We’d be talking a lot different if we didn’t turn the ball over,” he said. “Our guys made plays, our guys got open, our guys had the ball and again, we just put it on the ground and it takes away from all the good things that you did do.”

WKU will have a week to recover from its first loss of the season. The Toppers head to Lexington next Saturday to face Kentucky in a rematch of last year’s season-opener.

Taggart said he thinks his team has the ability to rebound and improve as the season progresses and that he saw some promising things on the field on Saturday.

“I’m encouraged because I know we’re a better football team than what we showed out there today,” he said.