Football Notes: Jakes has career night in WKU win

Junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes scrambles and runs the ball for a gain in the second quarter at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas on Saturday. Jakes went 19-of-29 for 231 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. WKU won 31-21 to become bowl eligible.

Brad Stephens

DENTON, Texas — Kawaun Jakes had one of the best statistical games of his career Saturday against North Texas.

The Toppers’ junior quarterback went 19-of-29 for 231 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in a 31-21 road win.

“He played big-time college football tonight,” Head Coach Willie Taggart said. “I’m really proud of the way he played.”

Jakes’ most common target Saturday was junior tight end Jack Doyle, who caught a career-high nine passes for a team-high 89 yards.

But Doyle said Jakes’ most impressive read of the night came when he used Doyle as a decoy.

Facing a third-and-two on the Mean Green 32-yard line, Doyle ran an underneath route similar to the ones he’s been running in similar third-and-short situations throughout the year.

A linebacker that had originally been covering senior running back Bobby Rainey out of the slot sucked up to cover Doyle.

With no safety help over the top, Rainey was suddenly running free down the right seam.

Jakes found his running back for a 34-yard touchdown that gave WKU a 10-7 lead.

“They brought a coverage that we call no-deep that was all man,” Doyle said. “Bobby made an awesome play. He and Kawaun kind of made a little hot route. 

“They were joking about on PlayStation2, hitting ‘triangle’ and ‘up.’ They made a little play for us, and it was awesome to see.”

Rainey called the play “a little Peyton Manning thing” with Jakes.

“I just saw there wasn’t a safety over the top, and the guy he tried to make me go outside, so I’m like, ‘If he’s going to sit there, I’ll go past him,’” Rainey said. “Kawaun seen it, threw a good ball and I caught it.”

Jakes received criticism throughout his freshman and sophomore years, and even the beginning of this season.

He was 2-19 in his career as a starter entering this year, and lost the starting job to redshirt freshman Brandon Doughty before the Toppers’ Sept. 17 loss to Indiana State.

But when Doughty tore his anterior cruciate ligament in that game, Jakes was suddenly thrust back in the starting limelight.

He’s quarterbacked WKU to a 6-2 record since reclaiming the starting role.

Jakes’ three touchdowns Saturday were the most for a Topper quarterback since Justin Haddix threw for three exactly six years earlier against Florida International.

But Taggart said he was especially impressed by Jakes’ demeanor when the WKU offense wasn’t on the field.

“I was proud of the way he was on the sideline,” Taggart said. “He was building everyone up… What Kawaun is doing now is understanding how to play that position, and what it takes to play that position, not just physical but as a leader, too.”

Toppers manage off-field distractions

WKU players had to deal with rumors and speculation about defensive coordinator Lance Guidry throughout the past week after Guidry was arrested for driving while intoxicated last Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

Administration faced criticism from for not suspending Guidry in the wake of the arrest, though he did face other penalties.

Sophomore safety Kiante Young said the team avoided talk about off-field matters when preparing for North Texas, instead focusing solely on game preparations.  

“We’re a family,” Young said. “Stuff happens and we can’t dwell on it… It happened, it was over with, we just had to focus on playing football.”

Rainey approaches rushing record

Rainey will have the chance to break one of WKU’s most significant records Saturday when the Toppers close their season against Troy.

WKU’s senior running back ran for 214 yards against North Texas, giving him 4,315 career yards and pulling him within 81 rushing yards of former Topper Lerron Moore’s school record.

“My offensive line, they talk about it,” Rainey said. “When the game is on, and you start playing, none of that is on your mind. After the fact they may talk about it, see what I got tonight, see how far I need to go, but none of that matters if we don’t win.”

Other notes

•Saturday marked the first time WKU had ever beaten North Texas. The Toppers has lost the team’s previous four meetings.

•Mean Green running back Lance Dunbar just two yards on three carries on Saturday. Dunbar, the Sun Belt Conference co-Preseason Player of the Year, hurt his knee the week before in a win over Troy.

•Rainey passed former Auburn running back and Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson on the NCAA’s career rushing list on Saturday.

•Senior kicker Casey Tinius’ 42-yard field goal in the first quarter was a season long for WKU.

•The Toppers held the ball for 39:15, its greatest time of possession total in a game this season.