A week after the WKU defense shut down the University of Kentucky, they just could not find their mojo as the Toppers lost their home opener to Navy 40-14. The Midshipmen gave the defense fits racking up 510 yards of total offense.
Coming into the game, the WKU defense knew that stopping the triple option would be tough, but to make matters worse, the defense had to battle the elements as rain poured on Houchens-Smith stadium for large portions of the game. It seemed as Navy look comfortable in the water as John Howell and Alex Teich both rushed for over 100 yards. Navy would finish the game with 410 yards on the ground.
It was obvious at the start that the Topper defense was going to have their hands full with the Navy rushing attack.
"Everything [was hard about stopping the triple option]," said WKU coach Willie Taggart. "You see it on film, and I think you take it for granted from what you see on film and when you see those guys in person, it's unbelievable. They do it top notch. I don't think there's anyone who can do it better than those guys."
While the defense may have prepared for Navy's vaunted triple option, everyone on the Toppers' sideline would agree, it is almost impossible for any team to be 100% prepared for what Navy brings to the table.
"You can't simulate that in practice," said Taggart. "Navy was a lot better than what we thought we saw on film, and they showed it today."
While the Navy rushing game might have been the most predictable element of their offense, their passing game may have had the greatest impact in the balance of momentum. Navy's senior quarterback Kriss Proctor may have completed just 3-7 passes, but his 100 yards and two touchdown passes really hurt the psyche of WKU.
"Our guys were too aggressive [on both of Navy's touchdown passes]," said Taggart. "Our corners had guys on the run, and we got a little too aggressive. They got behind them and saw that themselves and took advantage of it. We should have been in position with our corners to be there, but that's what that offense will do to you. They sit there, and they run, and you lose focus in what you're suppose to do."
While the play of Navy's quarterback may have been the winning difference, the play of Toppers' quarterback Kawaun Jakes was once again not up to par. While his completion percentage did improve tremendously from last week's 9-27 passing, Jakes still struggled to make the necessary plays to get the Tops into the end zone on a regular basis. Jakes finished the game 7-12 passing for 51 yards and an interception.
Jakes reached his breaking point in the third quarter when he let a wet ball slip out of his hands and into the hands of the Navy defense. As a result of that play, Taggart made the decision to insert redshirt freshmen quarterback Brandon Doughty for the remaining time.
"The game there towards the end was pretty much out of reach," stated Taggart, "and I just wanted Brandon to get in there and get some reps."
Doughty would go onto finish the game 12-21 passing for 102 yards and an interception. He would also lead WKU on a 12 play, 86 yard scoring drive capped off by a one yard Bobby Rainey touchdown run to make the score 33-14 Navy. On that drive Doughty went 5-9 passing for 70 yards, which also included a third and a fourth down conversion.
Even though Doughty may have replaced Jakes late in the game, Kawaun was still in good spirits while watching his teammate lead the offense on the field.
"He was great," said Taggart. "He was on the sideline watching the [Navy] defense, talking, saying 'Hey coach, they're in this coverage, we should run this play.' He was talking to Brandon, and he was great. Did he like it? I'm sure he didn't like it, but there was nothing he could do."
Another area that needs to be addressed for the Toppers is the field goal unit. In the first quarter, senior Casey Tinius missed a 32 yard field goal that would have cut the score to 6-3. Instead, the missed kick gave the Navy offense a jolt of energy leading to Kriss Proctor's 44 yard touchdown pass to Matt Aiken as time expired in the first quarter.
Tinius is now 1-3 on the season on field goal attempts. WKU must solve this problem as well as other mental mistakes if they want to win the school's first every Sun Belt Conference title in football.
While the Toppers will continue to work out the kinks in the passing and kicking game, Bobby Rainey and the WKU rushing attack had another good day as the team rushed for over 100 yards. Rainey extended his 100+ yard rushing streak on the night touching the ball 21 times for 132 yards and two scores, the first two touchdowns for the team on the season, as well as catching four passes for an additional 19 yards.
The Toppers will look to grab their first victory of the season next Saturday as the host FCS opponent Indiana State who will look to pull off the upset after defeating Butler 48-34 this weekend. WKU will hope to put an end to their offensive woes as well as their 16 home losing streak as they host the Sycamores next Saturday at 6 PM.