It wasn't a lot of momentum, but the way things have gone, WKU would take it.
Leading 17-14 late in the second quarter, the Toppers forced visiting Troy to punt from mid-field. The kick wobbled in the air as it went towards the left side of the field. Normally sure-handed senior Jake Gaebler made an attempt to field the ball. Off the spin, the ball ricocheted off Gaebler at the nine-yard line and bounced back to the four.
Gaebler dove onto the ball as a fray of other players from both teams dove towards the ball as well, piling up. With the pile not yet cleared, the official signaled Troy ball. Moments later, Gaebler emerged with the ball and pleaded his case to no avail.
Two plays later, the Trojans got into the end zone on five-yard run by running back DuJuan Harris for a 21-17 lead.
From there, the Toppers stayed within reach but couldn't muster enough, falling to Troy on homecoming 40-20.
"I felt like I had it," Gaebler said. "I came out of the pile with it, Coach said they kinda called it quick for Troy. Regardless of who came out with it, I should've let that one go and that one's on me."
Coach David Elson asked for a review of the fumble by Gaebler, but there was not enough evidence from the replay to overturn the call.
"That was obviously a big part of the game," Elson said. "That was the only turnover and you just obviously out your defense in a tough spot there. When you're playing a team as good as Troy you can't spt them the ball at the five yard line. Jake came out of the pile with the ball and that's typically what you wait for. It was very quick decision and call by the back judge. I can't begin to stand in his shoes but hat just is odd that there's that quick of a decision when Jake Gaebler swears that the guys had just one arm on it and he fought for it and got it under the pile."
Gaebler's fumble signaled the beginning of a tale of two halves for WKU. The Toppers defense, which has been not much short of catastrophic over the past few games, forced Troy into three punts and 147 yards of total offense in the first half.
The Trojans got rolling soon after.
"The difference was, at least in the second half, was execution," senior cornerback Jihad Morris said. "The first half, we were executing. We were getting three and outs, everybody was in the right place and it was like, when we came out in the second half, it's not like we wanted it any less. It's just the things we were doing to get it. It was just little things."
The same happened to WKU's offense after halftime. The Toppers put up 310 yards of total offense in the first half, but finished with 422 yards and didn't score in the second half.
"We need to stay on top of the game," redshirt freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes said."It seems like when we fall back, things just start going wrong."
Gaebler's game-changing fumble overshadowed a historic night for Gaebler. On a four yard pass from Jakes, Gaebler became WKU's all-time receptions leader. He now has 153 career catches, eclipsing the previous mark of 149 held by Curtis Hamilton.
"It's definitely bittersweet," Gaebler said. "It's definitely special, but I'd much rather have a win. I'm a little frustrated with myself there on that punt. I should've let it go. I thought we played well and we've just gotta continue to fight and work hard."
The Toppers, who showed great things early, but in the end, another loss means the misery continues.
"As of right now, we're looking for a win," Morris said. "The moral victory thing, that goes in one ear and comes out the other. We're very capable of beating every team on our schedule. But as Coach said before, every team on our schedule is capable of beating us."
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