Defense struggles, Jakes pulled in WKU’s 40-14 loss to Navy

Receiver Boe Brand is upended by the Navy defense after a short gain in the third quarter of WKU’s 40-14 loss at Smith Stadium on Saturday night. Navy’s triple-option attack shredded the Topper defense for 510 total yards.

Brad Stephens

As of kickoff Saturday, junior Kawaun Jakes was WKU’s quarterback and the team’s defense was riding high after an outstanding showing in its opener.

Hours later, neither may be the case after a 40-14 WKU loss to Navy at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

The Topper defense was gashed by the Midshipmen’s triple-option attack for 510 total yards, including 410 yards on the ground.

And Jakes, who had committed two turnovers, was pulled during the third quarter in favor of redshirt freshman Brandon Doughty.

Head Coach Willie Taggart said WKU (0-2) “wasn’t physical” against Midshipmen.

“Navy just physically beat us on both sides of the ball,” Taggart said following the game. “That was disappointing because I felt like our football team, especially offensively, was going to be a lot more physical.

“We were 30 pounds heavier than those guys and we didn’t stick on blocks and we just didn’t win the physical battle.”

Navy (2-0) took a 6-0 lead less than two minutes into the game on a 50-yard triple-option touchdown run by slot back John Howell and a botched extra point attempt.

The Midshipmen pushed the lead to 13 when quarterback Kriss Proctor hit a wide-open wide receiver, Matt Aiken, down the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown.

Proctor struck again in the second quarter, finding receiver Brandon Turner over the middle in the end zone to give Navy a 20-0 lead.

Taggart said his defensive backs’ aggression allowed for the easy passing scores.

“We got a little too aggressive. They saw that themselves and took advantage of it,” he said. “We should’ve been in position with our corners to be there but again, that’s what that offense will do to you when they sit there and get some good runs.

“You lose focus of what you’re supposed to do, and our guys did on those plays because of what they were doing in the run game.”

WKU then put together a touchdown drive, as senior running back Bobby Rainey took a toss sweep into the end zone from 13 yards out, cutting the deficit to 20-7.

It was an important drive for Rainey, as earlier in the series he became just the sixth rusher in Topper history to amass 3,000 career rushing yards.

Rainey’s touchdown run was also WKU’s first touchdown of the season.

But the momentum was short lived, as the Midshipmen took just five plays to drive down and score another touchdown.

Slot back Aaron Santiago scored on a four-yard run for Navy, pushing the lead to 27-7.

In the second half, WKU was driving when Jakes fumbled on the Midshipmen 34-yard line.

Three plays later Howell broke off his second long run of the game in the third quarter, going 57 yards on a third and one to put Navy up 33-7.

Howell finished the day with 113 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries.

Senior linebacker Ben Duvall said facing the Navy option offense in person was far different than watching it on tape.

“They were a lot faster in person than they looked on film,” said Duvall, who led the defense with 14 tackles. “And we were in the right spots a lot of times we just missed a lot of tackles.”

Doughty replaced Jakes on the next WKU drive and marched the Toppers down the field, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run from Rainey.

“I just felt like we needed a spark and I wanted to try something new,” Taggart said of the decision to replace Jakes with Doughty. “We were seeing the same thing we’ve been seeing with our offense, and it wasn’t going anywhere.”

Doughty ended up 5-for-9 on the touchdown drive with 70 passing yards.

But a fourth quarter interception-return touchdown from Midshipmen linebacker Tra’ves Bush off Doughty put Navy up 40-14, sealing WKU’s fate.

Overall, Doughty was 12-of-21 for 102 yards with one interception, while Jakes was 7-of-12 for 51 yards with a pick.

The loss extends WKU’s winless home game streak to 16, dating back to a 50-9 win over Murray State on Sept. 20, 2008.

Taggart said that he didn’t think his team took a step back Saturday.

But he added that the team needed a new mindset going forward in order to start winning games.

“Our football team does not have that killer instinct,” Taggart said. “And we have to develop that in order to be a good football team.”