Taggart: Red, white teams even for Saturday’s spring game

Freshman quarterback James Mauro is wrapped up during practice last Saturday at Smith Stadium. The team will hold the annual Red vs. White game tomorrow at 6 p.m.

Lucas Aulbach

It doesn’t really matter who wins the spring game scrimmage, right?

Don’t tell that to Eric Mathies, WKU’s defensive line coach and head coach of the red squad.

“I’m not going to guarantee a victory, but I’m going to guarantee a victory,” he said with a laugh at WKU’s final spring practice Thursday.

After practicing for the past four weeks, the last event remaining this spring is Saturday night’s spring game, a public intrasquad scrimmage starting at 6 p.m. to close out the spring schedule.

Mathies, along with the rest of the team, has a little extra motivation to try and get the win at the scrimmage. Head Coach Willie Taggart said earlier this week he was thinking of ways to reward the winning squad.

“I thought about getting steaks and Jolly Ranchers,” he said. “It’s not fun to lose, so I ante-upped a little bit. You lose, you get a Jolly Rancher. You win, you get a nice, juicy steak.”

Taggart will be acting as “commissioner” for WKU as Mathies coaches the red squad and quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan leads the white squad.

Sheridan said while he isn’t the type to guarantee a win, he thinks his squad will come out ready to compete with the red squad.

“Everyone on our team is fired up,” he said. “It’s been a good spring — some good days, some bad days for both sides of the ball — and our guys really get juiced up when it’s competitive environments. Plus there’ll be fans in the stands, so our guys will be ready to go on both sides.”

Both squads, whose lineups were determined in a pick-up-game style draft last week, have plenty of starters.

The white squad has senior starting quarterback Kawaun Jakes and junior linebacker Andrew Jackson, the team’s leading tackler last season.

The red squad, on the other hand, looks to be deeper at offensive line and defensive back.

The red squad will also start redshirt freshman quarterback James Mauro tomorrow night. Mathies said while fans may be excited about seeing Jakes behind the center again, they have an interesting chance to see Jakes’ backup throw the ball.

“(Mauro)’s got a big arm. He’s really smart, he’s a tall kid and I think our fans are going to be excited about the future of quarterback here at WKU,” Mathies said.

Taggart said the two teams are too close for him to call the winner.

“The last two years I could have predicted which team was going to win – this year I really can’t,” he said. “I think they’re evenly matched. It’s going to be a really, really good ballgame.”

The coaches are hoping the game this year is different than last season in at least one area — the weather.

Last season, fans endured temperatures in the lower-40s and light rain during the scrimmage. The forecast for Saturday night calls for warmer weather and no rain.

Sheridan said he hopes the weather can motivate fans to fill the stands.

“I know there’s a lot of things to be excited with with our program right now, so we’re hoping to get a lot of people to come support us,” he said.

Mathies, who claimed anything other than a red squad win would be “uncivilized,” said tomorrow’s game is an opportunity for the entire team to improve and compete.

“It’s a backyard brawl,” he said. “It’s us vs. them, and at the end of the day we’ll be WKU, but on Saturday at six o’clock, it’s red vs. white, it’s Coach Mathies vs. Coach Sheridan’s team. I expect to win.”

As for the post-game rewards, Jakes said his opponents on the red squad should be ready for a dinner of Jolly Ranchers.

“The red team better get their sweet tooth going,” Jakes said.