Notes: Taggart says WKU has contacted Sun Belt about fumble call against MTSU

Junior running back Bobby Rainey is just eight yards away from his season-long goal of 1,500 yards rushing. Rainey also leads the nation in rushing attempts after Saturday’s 27-26 loss to Middle Tennessee.

Zach Greenwell

Saturday’s 27-26 loss to Middle Tennessee was a stinging defeat for WKU.

But Head Coach Willie Taggart said Monday that it hurts a little more knowing the biggest play of the game may have been called incorrectly.

Video evidence seems to suggest that the knee of MTSU’s Rod Issac was down after recovering a fumble by sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. Issac returned the fumble 99 yards for a touchdown, bringing the Blue Raiders within 26-20.

MTSU scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:38 to play.

Taggart said WKU has put in a call to the Sun Belt offices about the play, and the school is waiting to hear back.

“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” he said. “It really hurt for our kids because they played lights-out. We totally dominated that game. It was one play, but I think it was a big play from a momentum standpoint. It just changed the whole momentum of the game.”

The play was reviewed by officials but later upheld.

“It went so fast that I didn’t know if my knee hit the ground,” Issac told the Daily News Journal. “But thank the Lord that it didn’t.”

Attempts by the Herald to reach the Sun Belt on Monday were unsuccessful.

Click here to view a screenshot of the play. The view to Issac is obstructed, but his foot can be seen on the left.

Taggart was critical of several calls after the game Saturday, most notably wanting a pass interference penalty on MTSU on the last play of the game.

But while he was disappointed in the possibly erroneous shift in momentum, Taggart said the Toppers also shouldn’t have let the game come down to controversial calls.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “You’d like an apology, but that doesn’t make the outcome better. It is what it is. It’s frustrating to lose it and have something like that happen. But a lot of people make mistakes.

“You just wish with the mistake like that, that you can review and correct, that you get it right. Those types of mistakes don’t happen.”

The wild play was just one of many this season that have cost WKU dearly in close games.

Taggart jokingly said he’s decided there can only be three explanations for the run of bad luck — pathological issues, technical issues or evil forces.

But at the end of the day, he said he knows the team doesn’t need an exorcism or have any sort of “reverse Midas touch.”

“It’s all technical, and it’s things that we can control,” Taggart said. “It’s not evil forces and it’s not pathological. It’s things we can control.”

Rainey still feeling strong

Although he said he was used to carrying the ball about 30 times per game in high school, junior running back Bobby Rainey’s workload has gone to a whole different level this season.

Rainey leads the nation with 313 carries, and no one else is even within 40 attempts of him.

His 248 yards on a career-high 45 carries Saturday vaulted him into fourth in the country in rushing yards per game, but Rainey said he’s still feeling good while carrying a heavy load.

“I’m good. The carries don’t bother me,” he said. “A lot of people think the carries I’ve gotten would be a burden on my body, but it’s not.”

Taggart said his decision to make Rainey wear a yellow jersey at practice and forbid others from tackling him has been important for his durability. But he also said you can only protect a player for so long before he has to protect himself.

“He has a unique talent that people don’t talk about. He doesn’t really get hit hard,” Taggart said. “He has a way of getting tackled. He knows how to fall and get tackled, and he also has the unique ability to make you miss. And he’s short. People don’t see him sometimes, and he can sneak through there.”

Rainey said his goal for the season was to reach 1,500 yards. That goal seemed far away a week ago, but the performance against MTSU leaves him just eight yards shy.

Rainey promised he would treat the entire offensive line to a meal of its choice if he reached the milestone, and he said Monday that outing seems likely.

“They keep playing around about expensive dinners or whatever, but I don’t think they’ll break my wallet that bad,” he said. “I hope not.”

Turning to Troy

The Toppers have a stiff test for their final game of the year this Saturday, traveling to perennial Sun Belt power Troy.

The Trojans (5-5) have had a down year by their standards, getting routed by Florida International and South Carolina in their last two games.

But despite the recent struggles, Taggart said Troy will always be Troy.

“It’s the last game, but we can go into the offseason in a positive manner with some momentum going into recruiting and workouts,” he said. “It can be a big boost for our team.”

WKU lost to Troy 40-20 last season but played the Trojans within two scores the previous two years.

“Each time we’ve played Troy, we’ve been close,” Rainey said. “For us to go and win would be huge. That would bring even more confidence to the team for next year.”

Taggart said WKU isn’t trying to emulate Troy’s blueprint for success in the league because he’d prefer for the Toppers to follow their own plan. But at the same time, he said he knows respect in the league will always go through the Trojans.

“I’d like to build a bully because everyone loves one, but to build a bully, you’ve got to beat one,” he said. “Troy’s the bully in this conference.”

Extra notes

— Taggart said sophomore tight end Jack Doyle is unlikely to play at Troy. Doyle has been battling a nagging neck injury all season, and Taggart said he’s “not where he needs to be” with his recovery.

— Freshman linebacker Bar’ee Boyd was named the Sun Belt’s Special Teams Player of the Week, the league announced Monday.

Boyd blocked two punts against MTSU, and both led to touchdowns for the Toppers. WKU had not blocked a punt since 2008 before his efforts Saturday.

MTSU’s Issac was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week.