Toppers’ offensive line breaks vow of silence

Head Coach Willie Taggart celebrates with senior offensive lineman Preston King on the sidelines at the end of the Toppers’ game Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette. WKU defeated ULL 54-21, the team’s first win after losing 26 games.

Brad Stephens

“Offensive line, media. Media, offensive line.”

With a tongue-in-cheek opening from Sports Information Director Chris Glowacki, two groups who hadn’t seen much of each other this season were re-introduced at a Monday press conference.

During fall camp in August, the offensive line stated they wouldn’t speak to the media until WKU snapped what was then a 20-game losing streak.

Six games into the season, and more than two months into the line’s media boycott, that streak had ballooned to 26 consecutive losses.

But when the clock hit zero after the Toppers’ 54-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, the boycott also came to a close.

Senior left guard Mychal Patterson explained that the line’s silence had been meant to keep the group focused on achieving Head Coach Willie Taggart’s team goals.

“We wanted to focus on winning the Sun Belt Conference and getting that monkey off our back of being 0-26,” Patterson said.

Taggart said he was “shocked” when he learned of the line’s decision, but he came to fully support it.

“By them not wanting to talk to the media, it speaks volumes to who those guys are,” Taggart said. “They didn’t want to do it because they felt like they hadn’t done anything to talk to the media about.”

The offensive line definitely had a lot to talk about following their performance in Saturday’s win.

They paved the way for four rushing touchdowns and also provided a consistent pocket for sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes, who went 18-of-22 for 262 yards and a touchdown through the air.

“I’m not going to say we did perfect, because there’s still some work to do, but we got the job done and then some,” Patterson said, smiling.

The line’s performance against ULL had to come as encouragement for Taggart and his offensive staff after WKU’s debacle against Louisiana-Monroe the previous game.

Holding a 24-14 fourth quarter lead against ULM, WKU’s offense hit a brick wall, producing two three-and-outs and an interception on their first three possessions of the quarter.

The Toppers went on to lose, 35-30.

Holding another big fourth quarter lead Saturday, the Toppers’ offense could have folded again.

But Patterson said the collapse of the ULM game was a constant reminder not to let ULL back into the game.

“Coach Taggart has been saying we’re a team that learns from our mistakes,” Patterson said. “We weren’t going to make the same mistake twice of having a lead and letting it go in the fourth quarter.”

Now Patterson and the Toppers must turn their attention to this Saturday’s Homecoming game against a reeling North Texas team.

The Mean Green is 1-6 on the year, and just saw Head Coach Todd Dodge fired after recording a meager 6-37 record in over three years at the helm.

Senior right tackle Preston King said now that the team has a win, it can’t afford a letdown against North Texas.

“We can’t go into this Saturday thinking ‘we’ve got our win. Now we can just relax,’” King said. “Getting that taste of a victory is going to make us want it more and just work that much harder.”

And after breaking the streak while on the road, sophomore tackle Seth White said the team is now even “hungrier” to give Topper fans a home win.

WKU hasn’t won in Houchens-Smith Stadium since defeating Murray State on Sept. 20, 2008.

“(Having a win) just motivates us to get even more focused than we were last week to get this win, especially for our home crowd,” White said. “With all the alumni back for Homecoming, it’s going to be great for them if we get a win.”

With their losing streak and resulting boycott behind them, WKU’s offensive line is turning its efforts to a streak of a different kind — a winning streak.

Patterson said WKU “doesn’t just want to stop at one win.”

“We finally busted down the door to the House of the Football Gods,” Patterson said. “We got that first little taste of a win, and it’s pretty addicting.”