WKU routed; Doughty, Vasquez likely out for season

Freshman quarterback Brandon Doughty watches from the sidelines in crutches during WKU’s game against Indiana State on Saturday. Doughty earned his first start but was injured on WKU’s third offensive play.

Brad Stephens

It was a loss that caused Head Coach Willie Taggart to say he’d understand if fans didn’t come back to watch.

And after WKU fell 44-16 to Indiana State Saturday at Smith Stadium, perhaps many won’t. 

“It was a game we could win, and we wanted to win at home,” Taggart said. “We need to do that and our fans deserve that. I appreciate them all showing up, and if they decide not to come I understand that.”

It was the 17th consecutive home loss for the Toppers, and it came at a severe price for WKU.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Doughty and junior wide receiver Marcus Vasquez both sustained knee injuries and are likely out for the season, Taggart said.

“Those guys are getting MRIs on their knees, but  chances are they are done for the year,” he said Monday on the Sun Belt’s weekly conference call.

Doughty, making his first college start, hurt his knee after getting hit while scrambling on the team’s first offensive series.

Meanwhile Vasquez, the Toppers’ leading receiver this season,  was injured on the game’s next-to-last play.

The two catastrophic injuries bookended a nightmare game for WKU.

The Toppers have struggled since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision, going 2-25 since 2009. But perhaps no loss in that time frame was as bad as their loss Saturday to the Sycamores.

It was a game where the Toppers (0-3) sustained injuries, missed tackles and were dominated up front by a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

In the words of Head Coach Willie Taggart, “everything” went wrong Saturday.

“To put it all in a nutshell, we’re not fundamentally sound right now,” said Taggart, who addressed the media alone following the loss. “That’s what’s getting us beat.”

Doughty was replaced after the injury by junior  quarterback Kawaun Jakes, which Taggart said altered WKU’s game plan.

“It changed things,” Taggart said. “I was planning on Brandon playing the whole game, so it was unfortunate he went down. That’s the kind of luck we’ve been having here.”

Jakes found some success in the passing game, going 22 of 30 for 237 yards — a season high.

But the Toppers struggled running the ball, as senior running back Bobby Rainey found little room until late in the game.

Defensively, WKU was largely unable to contain wide receiver Justin Hilton and running back Shakir Bell.

Hilton repeatedly slipped by Topper cornerbacks Cam Thomas and Derrius Brooks en route to picking up 143 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Bell took advantage of multiple missed tackles to amass 221 rushing yards.

The 209 total rushing yards gained by the Sycamores mean the Toppers have surrendered 619 yards on the ground over their last two games.

Taggart said his team’s missed tackles were especially frustrating considering WKU had put special emphasis on tackling during the previous practice week.

“Because of what we saw (against Navy) we worked our tails off in tackling drills,” Taggart said. “But for whatever reason, it happened, and we’re going to keep stressing it and keep working on it.”

Indiana State’s dominance over WKU caught some by surprise, as the Sycamores have traditionally struggled in FCS play, much less when competing against FBS competition.

Indiana State Head Coach Trent Miles said after his team’s win that he expected the outcome.

“Our kids have had a taste of winning and their expectation level is extremely high,” Miles said. “We’re not shocked. We’d be extremely disappointed if we didn’t perform that way.”

WKU now has a bye week before starting Sun Belt Conference play Oct. 1 against Arkansas State.

Taggart told fans after the game to “not give up on our football team.”

“I believe in this team,” he said. “I’m not going to give up on it, and I hope everyone else doesn’t either.”