WKU moving on from ASU loss to focus on MTSU

Senior linebacker Ben Duvall tries to tackle Arkansas State wide receiver R.J. Fleming but is unable to stop him during the third quarter at Smith Stadium on Saturday. Arkansas State won 26-22. WKU’s home losing streak extended to 18 games.

Brad Stephens

The Toppers didn’t have too much time to feel sorry for themselves this weekend.

A last-minute 26-22 loss to Arkansas State Saturday sent the team to its 18th consecutive home defeat and its fourth in four games this season.

But WKU (0-4, 0-1 Sun Belt Conference) has to turn right back around from that setback and face rival Middle Tennessee State (1-3, 0-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday in a nationally-televised road game.

Head Coach Willie Taggart said the Toppers have handled the short week well, starting with a productive practice Sunday — one day after the close loss.

“That’s the first time since I’ve been here that after a close loss our guys have come out and been excited for practice,” the second-year head man said Monday.

Two weeks after showing little of that excitement while getting drubbed 44-16 by Indiana State, WKU showed plenty of emotion Saturday against the Red Wolves.

The Toppers fought back from two different deficits to take a 22-19 fourth quarter lead and had the ball with less than five minutes remaining, trying to run down the clock.

But a controversial replay of a third-down scramble from junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes took away a WKU first down, and a Red Wolves’ stop of senior running back Bobby Rainey on a  subsequent fourth down attempt forced a turnover on downs. 

Arkansas State then calmly marched 64 yards down the field for the wining score.

What looked like a season-changing win had turned into another WKU football defeat.

“Those guys were crushed after that,” Taggart said. “I saw some guys crying after that that I hadn’t seen cry before. They were hurt, and I hurt for them because they really played hard.”

MTSU Head Coach Rick Stockstill said Monday that he was impressed with WKU’s efforts against Arkansas State and said his team won’t be fooled by the Toppers’ 0-4 record.

“Western Kentucky to me is a better team than what their record indicates,” Stockstill said. “They’ve been in close games all year, other than the Indiana State game, and have been competitive.”
For WKU to be competitive Thursday, the secondary will have to slow down a potent Blue Raiders’ passing attack five days after surrendering 419 passing yards to the Red Wolves.
Gone from the Blue Raiders is longtime dual-threat quarterback Dwight Dasher, lost to graduation.
MTSU has now turned the reins over to Logan Kilgore, a sophomore who has thrown for 1,139 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions through four games.
“(Kilgore) is really accurate and has really good anticipation when he’s throwing the football,” Taggart said. “And they do a good job running the ball to help him out.”
WKU will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak in the series and avenge a heartbreaking defeat one year ago in the Toppers’ home finale.
WKU blew a 16-point second half lead and was defeated 27-26 in a game that has stayed in the front of senior safety Ryan Beard’s memory.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Beard said. “It’s not a feeling we’d like to re-live, and that’s why we’re working so hard this week to be on the other end of that.”