COLUMN: WKU consistently inconsistent

Cole Claybourn

You know the saying, “so close, yet so far away?”

That’s sort of the notion I get from watching WKU play this season.

A month ago, we sat at L.P. Field in Nashville and watched the Topper defense stifle a Southeastern Conference team’s offense to just 93 yards rushing and 190 total yards.

If a few bounces had gone WKU’s way and Kawaun Jakes had hit a wide open Jack Doyle in the end zone, the Toppers could have been looking at a 1-0 record with their first ever win over an SEC team.

The Toppers lost, but optimism was sky high after their performance against Kentucky.

“We got better as a football team but we didn’t get what we wanted,” Head Coach Willie Taggart said after the game. “I’ve said from the beginning that we didn’t fear anybody. We’re going in there to win, and we let it get by.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in our locker room that’s happy. We lost, and we’re tired of losing.”

Some might have thought that was just Taggart spouting out fluff, but it seemed genuine. WKU seemed like a different team than last year. 

The Toppers legitimately believed they could win that game, and they were legitimately disappointed when they didn’t.

But in the next game, it was like they forgot what they did right the game before. The same defense that held UK to so few yards came right back just nine days later and allowed 410 rushing yards — 510 total yards — to Navy. 

As expected, Taggart said Navy’s option offense was what threw the Toppers for a loop. 

Sure, that’s true, but the next game against Indiana State was a similar story. The defense had no answer, this time for a decidedly inferior opponent.  

Sycamore quarterback Ronnie Fouch torched WKU for 227 yards passing and three touchdowns, while running back Shakir Bell rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns as Indiana State rolled over WKU 44-16.

It was a game where Taggart said “everything went wrong.”

“We didn’t play physical. That’s one thing I’m most disappointed in,” Taggart said following the Indiana State game. “To put it all in a nutshell, we’re not fundamentally sound right now.”

All of that happened within a span of two and a half weeks.

A team that had come so close to beating UK  saw the wheels completely fall off the next two games.

But after a bye week, we indeed saw a similar team that trotted onto the field in Week One. 

Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin threw for 396 yards, but the defense held the conference’s top rushing team to just 25 yards rushing.

And with less than five minutes to play, WKU had a lead. The Toppers were literally inches away from possibly securing their first home win in 2008.

Once again, the Toppers simply looked different. Their mentality had changed. They looked like they believed they would win that game.

Taggart looked shell shocked after the game.

“I thought I was going to have some good stuff for you tonight, and I thought you guys were going to have some good questions for me,” Taggart said to the media after the game. “Damn.”

They were almost there. They almost took their first step toward their well-publicized goal of a Sun Belt title.

Right now, the only certainty about this team is the uncertainty about which team will show up.

That’s why even when they’re close to a win, it still feels like one could be far away.