WKU snaps streak with blowout win over Louisiana-Lafayette

Senior offensive lineman Mychal Patterson points to the heavens after WKU won its game Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. WKU defeated ULL 54-21 to snap a 26-game losing streak.

Zach Greenwell

It had been 763 days of dejection for the WKU football program — 763 days and 26 straight losses.

And in one night at Louisiana-Lafayette, those 763 days melted away.

The Toppers blasted their way to a 27-7 halftime lead over ULL Saturday, then outscored the Ragin’ Cajuns 27-14 in the second half for a 54-21 win at Cajun Field.

The win is WKU’s first since Sept. 20, 2008, when the Toppers defeated Murray State at home.

It’s been over two years of agony since, but how quickly did Saturday’s victory erase the past?

Senior linebacker Chris Bullard’s answer was simple.

“Winning cures everything,” he said.

Some at WKU (1-6, 1-2 Sun Belt Conference) have been searching for a cure longer than others. Head Coach Willie Taggart’s relatively new to the situation, but he said after the game he’s glad the search is over.

“I’ve only been a part of six of those, but that felt long enough,” Taggart said in a phone interview. “I’ve never been a part of a six-game losing streak. But I’m happy for these guys that have been around here for 26.

“It’s just been miserable for them, and I’m so proud of them.”

If you’re going to snap college football’s sixth-longest losing streak of all-time, you might as well do it in dominant fashion.

WKU scored two defensive touchdowns in the game. The offense never punted and converted 9-of-12 third downs. Even special teams improved, as junior kicker Casey Tinius made 2-of-3 field goals.

“I feel like it’s been inside us the whole time, but we just haven’t been able to put it on the same page,” Bullard said. “It was just a team win. We all fueled each other.”

The Toppers only got a 20-yard field goal from Tinius in the first quarter but piled on 24 points in an explosive second frame.

Sophomore defensive end Jamarcus Allen sparked the scoring onslaught with 13:01 left in the second when he returned a fumble by ULL quarterback Chris Masson 69 yards for a touchdown.

The Ragin’ Cajuns answered with a touchdown in just three plays, as Masson found running back Aaron Spikes for a wide-open, 52-yard touchdown pass. The score pulled ULL back within 10-7 with 11:35 remaining in the half.

But WKU took control of the clock on its next drive, grinding over eight minutes off the scoreboard before sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes scored on a 1-yard run at the 3:02 mark.

ULL botched a punt on the ensuing drive and surrendered the ball to the Toppers at the ULL 24-yard line. Jakes then connected with freshman receiver Willie McNeal for a 20-yard gain, and freshman running back Antonio Andrews scored on a 4-yard run on the next play to put WKU up, 24-7.

“We were just clicking on offense tonight,” junior offensive lineman Wes Jeffries said. “We really kind of moved the ball at ease. They’re a great team, but we just had a great effort.”

WKU got the ball back with 38 seconds left in the first half, and three completions by Jakes allowed Tinius to make a 47-yard field goal, which tied his career long.

The field goal gave the Toppers a 27-7 halftime lead, but the situation seemed all too familiar.

WKU led Louisiana-Monroe, 24-7, heading into the fourth quarter last week but ended up losing 35-30.

It started to look like the same old story when ULL quarterback Brad McGuire scored on a 1-yard run to open the second half and pull ULL within 27-14.

But that’s when Taggart said he’d seen enough.

“I asked them if they knew how many people were saying, ‘Oh no, here we go again’ right then,” Taggart said. “I said, ‘Let’s change those people’s thinking right now and show them that we don’t do that anymore.'”

It’s safe to say the Toppers got the message, outscoring ULL 27-7 the rest of the way. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ only points from that point forward came on a 1-yard rushing touchdown by McGuire with less than two minutes left in the game.

“I didn’t want us thinking that there was some trick to winning,” Taggart said. “We just needed to go out and take care of business.”

WKU didn’t just take care of business after its lead shrunk to 13. It finally, as Taggart put it, “stepped on Lafayette’s throat.”

Jakes finished a 70-yard drive with his second 1-yard touchdown run of the game, then connected with freshman tight end Demetrius Coley for a 43-yard score with 1:14 left in the third quarter.

Junior cornerback Derrius Brooks intercepted Masson on ULL’s next drive and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown, and Andrews broke a 30-yard run for WKU’s final score with 9:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jeffries said the relentless, second-half effort was a far cry from last week’s collapse.

“We knew we were going to get it this year,” Jeffries said. “We were so close in those last couple games and really beat ourselves. We just kept believing everything, and now we have a chance to get even more.”

After taking criticism for his performance in WKU’s last two games, Jakes turned in one of his best showings Saturday. He completed 18-of-22 passes for 262 yards and had three total touchdowns.

Sophomore receiver Marcus Vasquez and freshman receiver Willie McNeal combined for 164 receiving yards. Junior running back Bobby Rainey had 67 yards on 21 carries, and senior linebacker Thomas Majors led the defense with 10 tackles.

But those weren’t the numbers that mattered to WKU on Saturday.

What mattered was 763 days and 26 straight losses, and the fact that they had become distant memories.

“More than anything, it makes our guys believe they can do it all the time,” Taggart said. “They hear about it all the time, but now we’ve done it. Now we can just play ball and not worry about the streak.

“We’re trying to start another streak. One with a ‘W.'”