There was a major difference between the Red and White teams at tonight's annual Red/White game that capped WKU's spring season.
And it wasn't the obvious of the lopsided score. The White team jumped out early and cruised to a 27-11 win. But coach Willie Taggart, who spent the game observing away from the plays and would listen in on the offensive huddles, had something jump out at him.
"You look at those sidelines and one sideline was upbeat and ready to go the entire game," he said. "The other sideline wasn't. That's a big part of it, which gets our guys down. The Red team was more like we used to be and the White team was more like where we're trying to go."
Sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes got the White team going with touchdowns on four of its first five drives. He finished the night completing 10-16 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns and was named the game's MVP.
"I did extra study in the film room this week," Jakes said. "I just told my dudes, just go out there and have fun. At the end of the day, go out and have fun, go 110 percent."
The running game got going, though it didn't come from junior running back Bobby Rainey, who finished in the top five in the country in rushing last season.
Instead, redshirt freshman Keshawn Simpson and freshman fullback Kadeem Jones shared the load for the White team. They were also key in keeping drives alive, with seven first downs coming from rushes.
"We felt comfortable coming in the game," Jones said. "We liked our staff and our players and we felt like we matched up with them well. It showed in the game."
Jones finished with one rushing and one receiving touchdown, while Simpson rushed for one as well. Simpson also rushed for 52 yards on 23 carries.
Neither side really opened up on offense, but the White team came away with a couple of big plays. Most notable was a fake by Jakes that led to a 52-yard pass to junior running back Avery Hibbitt.
"The scheme we had going in, they were with it," Jakes said. "The receivers, just going no huddle, up-tempo, trying to get the defense tired. They were with it and it paid off."
All spring, it had been a back and forth affair between the offense and the defense. The offense might have gotten the last laugh, as some of the Toppers' top defensive backs, including Kiante Young and Jonathan Dowling were on the Red team.
But overall, Jakes said it's been a worthwhile spring, one that's overall built up the confidence of the team.
"From the first day, I feel like we made big strides," Jakes said. "We're not near where we wanna be. We've got the summer and off-season coming up, so I told the dudes to just come in and work."
The spring game drew an estimated 1,250 fans, well short of the hoped for 15,000 that WKU has been promoting for weeks. That would've set the Sun Belt Conference record for a spring game.
Cold weather, with sprinkles of light rain could be blamed for the letdown. Taggart said he was disappointed in the turnout, but that it didn't dampen the positives from the game.
"The football gods have a plan for us," he said. "They weren't ready for Coach Taggart to get his goal right now. They have a plan for us and we're gonna get there. You've gotta start somewhere and Mother Nature, you can't do anything about that. But I know this for a fact: if it was a sunny day out there, we would've gotten 15,000. No doubt about it. There's 15,000 true believers here in Bowling Green."
Believers or not, the White team believed enough to win. And there reward will be steak dinners. The Red team will have to make do with hot dogs.