When asked who didn’t step up in WKU’s 33-6 home loss to North Texas Saturday afternoon, Head Coach Willie Taggart didn’t hesitate.
“The receivers didn’t play well at all,” Taggart said. “They hurt us.”
Sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes completed 15 passes for 116 yards in the game, but 57 of those yards were to junior running back Bobby Rainey on five receptions.
Freshman Willie McNeal led the actual receiving corps with three catches and 24 yards. Sophomore Marcus Vasquez, the team’s leading receiver this season, had just one catch for 4 yards.
The unit was also playing without sophomore tight end Jack Doyle, who injured his neck at Louisiana-Lafayette last week, Taggart said.
Taggart, who didn’t allow players to speak after the game, said the receivers were simply running the wrong routes.
“If you’re going to get the ball, you should at least know where you’re going to run,” he said. “The guys weren’t focused.”
In the past, Taggart tagged some of the blame for WKU’s offensive woes on Jakes. But Saturday, he said that simply wasn’t the case.
“It doesn’t fall on Kawaun. We’re not going back to that,” Taggart said. “That wasn’t Kawaun’s fault. Those guys have to run the right route. If they run the right route, he’s throwing them the ball.
“I’m sure there’s other guys that made mistakes, and we’ll see those guys when we watch the film. But those receivers hurt us.”
Merrick steps up
After junior kicker Casey Tinius missed a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter Saturday — dropping him to 4-of-10 on field goals this season — Taggart said he reached his breaking point.
He elected to use redshirt freshman kicker Monte Merrick on a 37-yard try in the second quarter, which Merrick made.
“I just got tired of seeing it,” Taggart said. “Enough is enough, and if you keep doing what you’re doing, you keep getting what you get. I was just tired of seeing it.”
Merrick also made a 46-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, which impressed Taggart.
“I’m always happy when a guy steps up and makes a play, no matter who it is,” he said. “That’s what it’s about, and that’s what I want our football team to be about.
“There’s always going to be competition and the chance to take someone’s job. I’ve said that from day one.”
Attendance doesn’t worry Taggart
Although WKU broke its 26-game losing streak and Homecoming was in full swing on campus, the crowd at Houchens-Smith Stadium didn’t reflect that Saturday.
The game’s attendance was announced as 14,373, the lowest of the season.
Taggart said he thought the conditions surrounding the game might boost those numbers, but at the end of the day, it’s not something he worries about.
“You expect it, but I’m sure a lot of people were over tailgating,” he said. “I was happy. I’m always happy with the ones that are in there. Those are the ones that care about this football team and want us to be successful. I just want our team to play well for them.”