Dowling highlights spring game

Sophomore defensive back Jonathan Dowling, left, and sophomore wide receiver Willie McNeal, right, celebrate after a successful play during the Red vs. White spring football game in Smith Stadium Saturday. Red won 16-10.

Lucas Aulbach

Saturday’s spring game was the first chance for WKU fans to see the football team in action since last season, and several standout performances had many fans wishing it was September already.

The red team squeaked out a 16-10 victory over the white squad at the scrimmage, thanks in large part to sophomore defensive back Jonathan Dowling.

The former Florida safety, playing for the Red Team, picked off two passes from white team senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes, taking one to the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Dowling said the credit for the late pick-six, which turned out to be the game-winning score, should be given to the whole red defense.

“I felt like the D-line got real good pressure on the quarterback that probably forced the bad throw,” Dowling said. “Just the good defense that the coach put me in — they put me right in the perfect spot to make a play.”

He also gave credit to the game plan the Red Team used under the guidance of defensive line coach Eric Mathies, who was at the helm of the Red Team on Saturday.

“We felt if we could make the White Team throw, that’s what we wanted to do,” he said. “I felt like we had — I’m not gonna say the better secondary because I feel like our secondary, everyone can play, everyone is equal — but we had more of the cover DBs, so if we could make them throw, it’d fall in our hands, and the game would be better.”

Dowling will be on the field for the Toppers in 2012 after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Dowling, who was named MVP of the game, said he had Head Coach Willie Taggart and former athletics director Ross Bjork to thank for giving him a chance at WKU.

“It just felt good to be out here with my family watching and everybody watching,” Dowling said. “I’m back in my right spot. I’m back in my rightful place.”

Dowling said he won’t really be satisfied until he’s running back interceptions in the regular season.

“I want to help the Tops get to 13-0 — it sounds crazy with the schedule we got, but hey, if our team believes it, we can do it,” Dowling said.

With the spring game behind them, the Toppers now have a period for the next several weeks without practice.

Taggart said he hopes his team takes this time to finish strong in the classroom before they return to the field this summer.

“Coach (Duane) Hall will get our guys in the weight room, and then we’ll have a period where we can’t do anything with them, so they can lock in really to academics,” Taggart said. “Then they’ll have some down time in May — come June we’re back at it. We’ll be full ‘go,’ and we’ll have all our freshmen here, too, going to summer school and working out and getting prepared for the fall.”

Dowling said he had a productive spring, and he’s prepared to get even better when the Toppers return to the field.

“I feel like I accomplished some good things,” Dowling said. “Everybody has room for improvement. I had a good spring, but I can be better.”