Notebook: Jakes fights through pain, has best game of season

Junior wide reciever Dexter Haynes make a catch in the third quarter of WKU’s win against Louisana-Lafayette 42-23 on Saturday night. It was WKU’s first home win since 2008.

Brad Stephens

Kawaun Jakes has been through a lot in his three years as WKU quarterback.

He’s had to learn a new offense, win two open quarterback competitions only to be benched earlier this season, and then come back after his replacement injured a knee.

Saturday Jakes fought through a painful thigh bruise to lead the Toppers to a 42-23 win over Louisiana-Lafayette at Smith Stadium, snapping an 18-game home losing streak.

Jakes, usually just as effective as a runner as he is as a passer, went 15-of-18 for 242 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“He got a thigh bruise (last Saturday) against Florida Atlantic and he didn’t want to run,” Head Coach Willie Taggart said. “That injury helped him out, letting him see things a lot better, slowing things down for him.”

No play better showcased Jakes’ decision making Saturday than a bizarre fourth quarter completion to junior tight end Jack Doyle.

On a 3rd-and-12 at the ULL 40, Jakes was pressured, rolled left and started forward like he was on the verge of scrambling.

He then looked up, stopped and fired downfield towards Doyle.

The ball glanced off the hands of a Ragin’ Cajun defender and into the hands of Doyle, who stumbled down to the one-yard line.

One play later, sophomore fullback Kadeem Jones scored a touchdown to put WKU up 35-23.

“Coach Taggart was complaining last week about our scramble drills and we weren’t very good after Kawaun started to scramble,” Doyle said. “We worked on that after practice all week and paid off.”

O-line speaks up

The press room podium was crowded following WKU’s win Saturday.

WKU’s tight ends and offensive linemen took a vow of media availability silence before the season, saying they weren’t talking until the Toppers won a home game.

And now that WKU had done just that?

Doyle and the entire offensive line shared the podium with Taggart and senior running back Bobby Rainey after the game.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve won here at home,” senior left tackle Wes Jeffries said. “You get all those wins on the road, it’s just not the same feeling.”

Jeffries and the Topper offensive line cleared space for Rainey on his way to a 206-yard, three-touchdown game.

They also kept Jakes from being sacked.

“It really hasn’t sunk it yet all the way,” Jeffries said of the win. “But it will tomorrow and it’ll be awesome.”

Toppers always believed

Taggart took the podium by himself Sept. 17 after WKU fell 44-16 to Indiana State to fall to 0-3 on the year.

His message to Topper fans that night was to not give up on his team.

Now that WKU is on a three-game win streak and stands at 3-1 in the Sun Belt Conference, Taggart said his team has shown why he told fans to stick with the team.

“Who would’ve thought, other than us, that we would be right here?” Taggart said. “Any team could’ve gave up when we were 0-4 and lost to Indiana State and all the bad stuff was said.

“Anybody could’ve given up and our guys didn’t… We understand that we can play with anyone on this conference, we just have to play like we’re capable.”

Additional notes

  • Freshman tight end Mitchell Henry caught his first career touchdown Saturday, a four-yard grab on a 3rd and Goal in the second quarter. Henry, a former Elizabethtown High School standout, made his first career reception earlier in the quarter. Sophomore fullback Nick Baisch also made his first career catch Saturday.
  • The Toppers are now 52-27-3 all-time on Homecoming. It was the first Homecoming win for WKU since a 41-3 victory over Indiana State in 2006.
  • Saturday’s game marked the first time in WKU’s Football Bowl Subdivision era that the Toppers beat a team with a winning record. ULL was 6-1 coming into Saturday.
  • Taggart is now 5-14 as the Toppers’ head coach. Jakes is now 5-22 as the Toppers’ starting quarterback.