WKU searching for offense after two straight losses

WKU running back Bobby Rainey stiff arms Florida Atlantic defenders in the second half on Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium. WKU lost 17-16.

Zach Greenwell

Head Coach Willie Taggart was more perplexed than upset after WKU’s loss to Florida Atlantic Saturday.

The defense did its job in the 17-16 home defeat, holding the Owls to just 215 yards.

But sitting at his post-game news conference, flanked by junior running back Bobby Rainey and senior linebacker Thomas Majors, Taggart questioned how his offense has vanished so quickly over the past two weeks.

“I’m sitting here wondering too,” Taggart said. “’Why aren’t we completing passes? Why isn’t the quarterback scrambling? Why aren’t we getting open?’ I was wondering the same things.”

The 10,275 people in attendance at Houchens-Smith Stadium pondered the same questions as WKU (1-8, 1-4 Sun Belt Conference) punted to FAU 10 times and found the end zone just twice.

In fact, outside of Rainey’s 152 rushing yards and two touchdowns, the WKU offense didn’t do much of anything.

The Toppers got their other two points on a safety, and sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes completed eight of 24 passes for 70 yards with an interception.

“Eight of 24 — that sucks,” Taggart said.

WKU’s offensive woes began against North Texas, when the Toppers were held out of the end zone for the first time all season in a 33-6 loss.

WKU gained just 272 yards against the Mean Green. Against FAU on Saturday, the number dipped to 268.

“We just didn’t execute,” Rainey said. “Big-time players need to step up and make plays, and it didn’t happen.”

Rainey shouldered the load for WKU, carrying the ball 33 times against the Owls.

The 152-yard performance put him at more than 1,000 for the year, but the rest of the offense hasn’t kept pace.

As of Saturday, Rainey has produced 39 percent of WKU’s 2,777 total yards of offense.

Oregon running back LaMichael James, the nation’s leading rusher, is responsible for 26 percent of the Ducks’ yardage.

Taggart said the ineptitude of WKU’s passing game has been fueled by several factors. The Toppers were without sophomore tight end Jack Doyle against the Owls, and sophomore receiver Marcus Vasquez suffered a season-ending broken collarbone in the second quarter.

But Taggart said those setbacks can’t toss all of the responsibility Rainey’s way.

“It’s difficult because those are guys that get the majority of the reps when they’re in there, but that’s not an excuse,” Taggart said. “All of our guys know our plays. We’ve just got to step up and get it done.”

It was WKU’s floundering defense that put pressure on the offense to produce for much of the season.

Majors said the script has flipped over the last two weeks, and the defense rose to the challenge against FAU.

But if WKU is going to win consistently, Majors said both halves of the team are going to have to show up each week.

“Everybody came out with a lot of energy, and we were ready to rebound from the performance we put out there last week,” Majors said. “It is frustrating, but we’ve just got to come out and work harder.”