Notebook: WKU stays ‘loose,’ successful on the road

WKU senior defensive lineman Jared Clendenin and senior offensive lineman Wes Jeffries embrace Head Coach Willie Taggart after beating MTSU at Floyd Stadium on Oct. 6, 2011. WKU won the game 36-33. 

Brad Stephens

MURFRESSBORO, Tenn. — All three Topper wins during Head Coach Willie Taggart’s two-year tenure have come on the road in Sun Belt Conference play.

Unlike most teams, it seems that once WKU gets away from the home pressures of Smith Stadium, the team plays better.

Taggart said the team had been relaxed leading up to Thursday’s game, and it showed on the field.

“Today, I tell you what, they were looser than a goose,” Taggart said. “I hoped that didn’t affect the guys concentration and it didn’t. They came out ready to play, and they’re starting to get some confidence now.”

The Toppers have now won three of their last four true road games dating back to the 2010 season.

Jackson puts together second big Thursday performance

Sophomore linebacker Andrew Jackson probably wishes WKU played all of its games on Thursday nights.

On a Thursday night game against Kentucky on Sept. 1, Jackson tallied a team-high 12 tackles in a 14-3 Topper loss.

Thursday, the Lakeland, Fla., native got a key interception and tallied seven tackles, including one for a safety, as WKU (1-4, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) defeated Middle Tennessee State (1-4, 0-2,) 36-33 in double overtime.

“We needed this win because I think our confidence was a little low,” Jackson said following the game. “But we’re there now and everybody knows how it feels to win.”

The Topper defense was key to the win, holding Blue Raiders quarterback Logan Kilgore to less than a 50 percent completion rate on his passes and forcing three turnovers in WKU territory.

Jackson said a big second quarter hit from senior defensive end Jared Clendenin on Kilgore shook the sophomore signal-caller.

“That rattled him a lot because he was slow to get up,” Jackson said. “And a couple other guys hit him pretty hard too.”

Junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes had high praise for a Topper defense that kept WKU in striking distance for much of the game.

“They’re one of the best in the conference,” Jakes said. “Andrew Jackson, the man is a playmaker, the d-line, the DBs — they just gave us field position all night.”

WKU fights through adversity for the win

Despite a win, a lot went wrong for WKU Thursday night.

Senior kicker Casey Tinius missed all three of his field goal attempts, freshman receiver Joel German dropped a sure touchdown pass and Jakes dropped what would’ve been a big catch on a double reverse pass.

But the Toppers overcame it all and found a way to win in the end.

Taggart said he actually preferred a tough win for his team.

“This game could’ve been easy, and to be honest with you our football team didn’t need it to be easy,” he said. “Our team needed to fight through some things and some adversity, show that we can do that.”