In a season that could not have started any worse and ended in the most unbelievable of fashions, WKU Rivals takes a look back at the Top 10 moments of the Tops' 2011 football season. There is no question that this year has been one of the most exciting, heart-stopping, successful, unforgettable season in the history of WKU football. Here are moments 6-10:
10) John Evans Leads the Way for WKU Kick Returners
Coming into this season the Tops knew that putting their return hopes in the hands of freshmen John Evans was risk, but the team was confident that he would do his job. Evans was among the most consistent return men in the Sun Belt heading into the Tops' fifth game of the season against arch-rival Middle Tennessee State, but one return set himself apart from the rest of the conference.
After MTSU tied the game at 16 with a 22 yard Alan Gendreau field goal, Evans took matters into his own hands by taking the ensuing kick-off 90 yards to the house for a touchdown that gave WKU a 23-16 lead. Evans also showed his late game heroics in the team's 31-28 overtime win on Louisiana-Monroe. After the Warhawks took a 21-20 lead with just a minute to play, Evans returned to the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to the ULM nine yard line to set up a Bobby Rainey touchdown.
With three years of eligibility left at WKU, there is no doubt that Evans will be a huge part of the team's kick return game for years to come. Look for Evans to make a big difference in the near future.
9) Tops Fend Off Furious ULM Comeback with 31-28 Overtime Win
Heading into the fourth quarter of their game against Louisiana-Monroe, WKU looked to have a decisive 20-7 lead. Horrors of the team's 35-30 loss to the Warhawks in 2010 reappeared when ULM mounted a furious comeback to take a 21-20 lead with one minute to play. The team responded with a 79 yard kickoff return by John Evans and a touchdown by Bobby Rainey coupled with a successful two-point conversion by Boe Brand to take a 28-21 lead.
The Warhawks responded with a ridiculous 38 second touchdown drive to force overtime with the score tied at 28. ULM took the ball first in the overtime and found themselves just three yards away from the end zone when Warhawks' quarterback Kolton Browning was intercepted by WKU defensive back Derrius Brooks to give the Tops the ball and a chance for the win.
After the team could not find the end zone on third down, the team puts its hopes on the leg of kicker Jesse Roy. Roy came through in the clutch and split the uprights with a 24-yard game winning field goal to move WKU to 4-4 on the season.
8) Andrew Jackson Leads the Way for WKU Defense
Coming into the 2011 season, the big question facing the WKU defense was the lack of depth in the linebacking core as the team lost three of their top defenders to graduation after 2010. The coaches talked about the play of sophomore Andrew Jackson, but question still remained. Jackson only saw action in one game in 2010, and many people believed that the Tops' would struggle on defense.
Jackson came up big in 2011 finishing the season with 109 total tackles, which was good enough for second in the Sun Belt. Jackson also made his impact felt as he led the Sun Belt with 23 total tackles for loss.
His tenacity and ruthless abandon made the big time in the season opener against the University of Kentucky when he commented about how lack luster he believed the Wildcat offense was. That comment quickly spread across LP Field in Nashville. When all was said and done, Jackson had one of the most stellar seasons in the nation in 2011.
7) Jack Doyle Paces WKU Receiving Core
Jack Doyle's 2010 season had a lot of promise through the first seven games. The sophomore from Indianapolis had already hauled in 20 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns heading into the team's game Louisiana-Lafayette. That game against the Ragin' Cajuns would be his last as Doyle suffered a season ending neck injury that hurt the WKU receiving game over the last five games.
Coming into 2011, there was a lot of hype surrounding Doyle's return. Before the season started, Doyle was named to the Mackey Award watch list. The award is annually given to the nation's top tight end. Many still questioned if Doyle was 100%.
Doyle answered his critics by leading the Tops in receiving yards and receptions. His 52 catches for 614 yards were good enough for eighth in the conference and towards the top of nation in receiving yards for tight ends.
6) Tinius Kicks WKU to Last Second Win Over FIU
Heading into the 2011 season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the FIU Golden Panthers football team. After gaining bowl eligibility for the first time in school history and emerging as champions of the Little Caesar's at Ford Field in Detroit, many people believed that this team could make some noise at the national level. That hype only intensified when FIU knocked off the Louisville Cardinals on the road in week two of the season.
The team hit a snag shortly after their win against Louisville and came into Houchens-Smith Stadium with a 5-3 record overall and a 2-2 record in the Sun Belt. While the Panthers were going through a rough patch, WKU was hitting their stride as they had won four straight entering their contest with FIU and looked to make a statement against the Golden Panthers.
While the game was not as pretty, the Tops were able to emerge victorious capturing the victory by a score of 10-9. The win came in the most unlikely of fashions as senior kicker Casey Tinius came into the game to attempt the game's final play after Jesse Roy, the hero from the previous week, missed his first two field goals.
Tinius made the most out of his opportunity drilling the ball right down the pipe from 34 yards out to give the team the improbable victory. Following the kick Tinius erupted in tears of joy as his teammates mobbed him in jubilation.
WKU Shuts Out FAU 20-0.
Tops ensure winning season with win over Troy
Sophomore fullback Kadeem Jones finishes second on the team with 8 TDs.
Sophomore punter Hendrix Brakefield brings consistency to WKU special teams.
True freshmen Tyler Higbee hauls in first career reception for 63 yard TD at North Texas.