Critical period begins now for winless WKU

Junior running back Bobby Rainey celebrates a third-quarter touchdown during Saturday’s game against ULM. Rainey scored two touchdowns in the Toppers’ 35-30 loss to the Warhawks.

Jonathan Lintner

When Head Coach Willie Taggart walked into the Houchens-Smith Stadium media room on Saturday night, he asked a reporter if he had been able to reach Taggart’s mom for comment on an upcoming story.

It was a good icebreaker to say the least, but Taggart didn’t need one the way he calmly approached his post-game comments.

Just another loss on a streak that now runs 26 games deep isn’t going to shake up the Football Bowl Subdivision’s youngest head coach. What Taggart has to worry about now, though, is how a 35-30 loss to Louisiana-Monroe — a loss in which the Warhawks rallied to score 28 straight points in the fourth quarter — will affect his team.

“I think those things can happen if I let them happen,” Taggart said. “But I’m not going to let them happen. We’re going to stay the course.”

Taggart himself said it was “one of the toughest losses” he’s ever been a part of. Because losing is uncharted territory for Taggart, who was part of a Division 1-AA National Championship team as an assistant at WKU and later played a role in a complete rebuild of Stanford’s football program.

But the uncharted territory WKU faced on Saturday wasn’t losing. It was winning, and knowing how to finish a game the Toppers were leading, 24-7, entering the fourth quarter. The last time WKU entered a fourth quarter with that kind of a lead was its last game of the 2009 season against Arkansas State.

Was this pill harder to swallow?

“I don’t want to speak about last year,” junior running back Bobby Rainey said.

Fair enough. This team is out to be different, out to set goals and change minds about what WKU football has become. Remembering the past won’t help any of that, and reverting back to the past is what the Toppers have to avoid.

With all that said, now begins a critical period for 0-6 WKU.

Junior safety Ryan Beard said this season is at a point where it could go either way — further downhill or make a turnaround.

“It would be easy to do — tuck your tail and quit on the team,” Beard said. “But that’s what we’ve got to do as older guys, make sure everyone stays together, keeps the path and keeps working toward the goal we have, which is to win games.”

We’ll see what happens. The Toppers have been competitive in Sun Belt Conference play through two games this season. Then again, they were almost always competitive with David Elson running the show in years past.

It’s just that the wins stopped coming. Apparently, so did the work ethic, which is what Taggart is pushing as a means of how to stop the infamous streak.

“All we can do is go back to work. It’s all I know,” Taggart said. “Whenever you’re down, you just get back to work and you keep working until you get it settled.”