WKU ends season 2-10

Brad Stephens

Fourth-quarter disappointments became a late season trend for WKU.

The Toppers’ season-ending loss to Troy on Saturday was no exception.

WKU and Troy went into the fourth quarter tied at 14, but two Trojan touchdowns in the final quarter gave Troy a 28-14 win.

The loss sealed a 2-10 season for the Toppers as well as a last-place Sun Belt Conference finish. The season was an improvement on WKU’s 0-12 mark of 2009, but it fell short of first-year Head Coach Willie Taggart’s goal of a 2010 Sun Belt Championship.

“After the game, I told the guys that I appreciate them helping us start the process of rebuilding our football team,” Taggart told WKU’s Big Red Radio Network.

WKU broke out to a 7-0 first quarter lead behind a Bobby Rainey touchdown run, and the junior running back added another touchdown early in the second quarter that put the Toppers up 14-7.

But Rainey’s touchdowns ended up being WKU’s last points of the game.

Troy tied the score later in the second quarter, then took its first lead of the game on a 47-yard fourth-quarter pass from Corey Robinson to Chip Reeves.

Another fourth-quarter touchdown plus a successful two-point conversion ended the scoring.

It was the Toppers’ fourth Sun Belt loss after WKU had either a fourth-quarter lead or tie.

Louisiana-Monroe beat the Toppers 35-30 on Oct. 16 after WKU held a 24-7 fourth-quarter lead.

WKU was beating Florida Atlantic on Nov. 6 in the fourth quarter 16-14 until the Toppers gave up a field goal and lost 17-16.

And on Nov. 20, WKU blew a 26-13 fourth-quarter lead against Middle Tennessee and went on to lose 27-26.

Saturday’s loss overshadowed another big day for Rainey. In addition to scoring both of WKU’s touchdowns, he ran for 157 yards on 27 carries.

He finished the season with 1,649 rushing yards, the second-highest single-season total in school history. Rainey finished 19 yards short of Joe Arnold’s record of 1,688 yards set in 1988.

“Bobby played this year like I expected him to play when I first watched film of him,” Taggart said. “I knew he was one of our better players, and he lived up to it this year.”

Though Taggart can take comfort in getting another year of Rainey, the Toppers’ lack of a passing game raises questions for the 2011 season.

Sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes passed for only 81 yards Saturday, going 10 for 23. Jakes didn’t complete a pass in the second half until a 15-yard completion to freshman receiver Willie McNeal late in the fourth quarter.

“We kind of expected coming in that the passing game wouldn’t be where we needed it to be,” Taggart said. “But we were able to run the ball to keep us in a lot of ballgames this year.”

Taggart can look forward to having a more experienced team in 2011. Twenty-five freshmen played for the Toppers this season.

The only area of real depletion will be in the linebacking corps. All three starting linebackers – Chris Bullard, Orlando Misaalefua and Thomas Majors – are graduating.