WKU routed by FCS opponent Indiana State, 44-16

Head coach Willie Taggart stares during the second half of the WKU vs Indiana State game at Smith stadium. The Toppers lost 44-16, marking their 17th straight home loss.

Brad Stephens

Head Coach Willie Taggart warned all week that Indiana State wouldn’t be a pushover.

A 44-16 Sycamore beating of WKU Saturday at Smith Stadium proved Taggart right.

Indiana State, of the Football Championship Subdivision, dominated the Toppers, getting 221 rushing yards from running back Shakir Bell, many on broken tackles, and 143 receiving yards from wideout Justin Hilton.

Meanwhile the Sycamores’ defensive line handled the WKU offensive line, bottling up the Toppers’ rushing attack for much of the night.

When asked what went wrong for the Toppers on Saturday, Taggart said, “everything.”

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

Taggart addressed the media by himself rather than with plyers in what WKU officials called a “coach’s decision.”

Things started off rough for the Toppers early in the first quarter.

On WKU’s first offensive series, redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Doughty, who made his first start in place of junior Kawaun Jakes, injured his knee on a third down scramble.

He would be done for the night and replaced by Jakes. The extent of his injury has yet to be announced, with Taggart saying Doughty will receive an MRI.

The Sycamores got on the board in the first quarter when Hilton toed the back line of the end zone on a touch pass from quarterback Ronnie Fouch.

After a second-quarter WKU field goal, Bell ran for a 46-yard touchdown that gave the Sycamores a 14-3 lead.

“I thought this game was one of those trap games,” Taggart said. “When we got down, I thought our guys were shocked and didn’t respond to it well at all.”

The Toppers had a chance to score late in the second quarter with the ball on the Indiana State 24-yard line. But Jakes was intercepted by defensive back Larry Carter, whose long return set up an Indiana State field goal to end the first half.

“He was a little late with the throw. He held it a little long,” Taggart said of Jakes’ interception. “(Carter) stepped right in there and picked it off. He was late.”

The Sycamores stretched their lead to 24-3 in the third quarter on a 27-yard pitch and catch from Fouch to Hilton over senior WKU cornerback Derrius Brooks.

After a Sycamore field goal, Fouch hit tight end Alex Jones to push the lead to 34-3.

WKU added two scores late in the third quarter, on touchdown passes from Jakes to sophomore fullback Kadeem Jones and junior wide receiver Marcus Vasquez.

But Bell’s second rushing score of the night gave ISU a 44-16 lead, sealing the Toppers’ fate.

Sycamore Head Coach Trent Miles said he wasn’t surprised his team played well against WKU.

“This in no way is disrespect to what they’re doing here at Western Kentucky, but I love our football team,” Miles said. “I know the type of potential that they have… Our kids have been there, had a taste of winning and their expectation level is extremely high.” 

The loss is now the 17th consecutive home loss for the Toppers, dating back to a 2008 win over Murray State.

It also marks the second consecutive loss for WKU against FCS competition, with the last coming against Central Arkansas in 2009.

One positive for WKU was that senior running back Bobby Rainey tied the school record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games with a 105-yard performance. It was his eighth-consecutive game with more than 100 yards.

But Taggart said he wasn’t satisfied with the team’s efforts in the running game Saturday, referencing a failed fourth down conversion in the first quarter when Rainey was stopped by the Indiana State defensive line.

“We’re a running, physical football team, and the last two teams (Navy and ISU) I felt we should’ve dominated in the run game,” Taggart said. “And we haven’t. That is so disappointing.

“It’s frustrating when Bobby gets hit in the backfield, when it’s a fourth and one and we can’t get the first down. That’s just unacceptable, especially if we want to to be the football team we say we’re going to be.”

Taggart said he was also frustrated with his defense’s efforts in attempting to stop the Sycamores’ rushing offense.

“We put a big emphasis on that this week in practice — wrapping up and getting guys down,” he said. “And we didn’t do that, so that was very disappointing.”

The Toppers now have a bye week before opening Sun Belt Conference play against Arkansas State on Oct. 1.

Taggart said WKU will have to turn the page quickly from Saturday’s defeat.

“This first season is over with,” he said. “We were 0-3 in that season, now we start a new season.”