The last time that WKU had won a home game came back on Sept. 20th, 2008. On that date the Tops opened up a recently renovated Houchens-Smith Stadium to the tune of a 50-9 win over Murray State. It had been three years, one month, and two days since that win. That streak came crashing to an end tonight as WKU defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 42-23 in front of a raucous crowd.
"I'm just so proud of everybody on this team," said senior lineman and Bowling Green native Wes Jefferies. "It was just a lot of fun for everyone who put something into this to get the win."
This win marked the third win in a row for the Tops as they move to 3-4 (3-1) on the season. While the score might have not reflected it this game came down to the wire and ended with the team finishing the job.
The big story of the night was the play of the WKU offense. Their balanced rushing and passing attack kept ULL guessing, which ultimately led to the win. The Tops were paced by senior running back Bobby Rainey who finished the night with 32 carries for 206 yards and three touchdowns. If it were not for his heart and tenacity down the stretch, the team would have had a hard time finishing off the Sun Belt's top team.
After senior defensive back Derrius Brooks came down with a ridiculous interception in the ULL end zone, Rainey broke off a 56-yard run that effectively broke the backs of the Cajuns. Bobby buried the dagger the next play with a 24-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.
"I was just trying to get into the end zone," said Rainey, "so the game wouldn't be close, and we'd know the game would be over. We were just trying to seal the game. The credit goes to [our] guys [on the offensive line], they did their job and gave me some lanes to run through."
While Bobby was Bobby, junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes had without a doubt the best game of the season as he went 15/18 for 242 yards and a touchdown. While he did throw an early interception, he stayed composed throughout the game and made huge plays when the team desperately needed it.
One spark of brilliance came early in the fourth quarter. On third and twelve, Jakes, who has been plagued by a thigh bruise since last week's win over FAU, was forced out of the pocket on what looked like a broken play. Jakes then emerged with a 39-yard strike down to the ULL one yard line. The pass was tipped by a ULL defensive back, but junior tight end Jack Doyle caught the deflection. The Tops then finished off the drive with a touchdown as sophomore fullback Kadeem Jones scored his second touchdown of the night.
"I just did my job," said Doyle," and Kawaun [Jakes] found me and just threw it. I thought the guy was going to get a hand on it so I was just ready to play the tip, and it kind of just fell into my hands."
Doyle finished the game with seven catches for 106 yards. On a game where Rainey did not catch a single pass, Doyle and the rest of the receiving core stepped up big time and made the plays in the clutch to put WKU over the top.
The unsung hero, or heroes, of the night was the offensive line. Led by Jefferies and junior Adam Smith, the line continued to open up holes for Rainey, Jones, and freshmen running back Keshawn Simpson to pick up big yards and keep the injured Jakes from having to make plays with his legs.
"It's a great feeling," said Smith, "but like Coach T[aggart] said, you got to take it for what it's worth. You got to move on to the next one. We're going to take it and embrace it, but it's on to Monroe, and we got to get to the next one."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tops were once again led in emotion and tackles by sophomore linebacker Andrew Jackson who paced the team with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery. Senior cornerback Derrius Brooks looked flustered early but found his rhythm when the needed it finishing the game with nine tackles, one pass break-up, and a huge interception. Fellow senior Jared Clendenin quietly had another solid game recording six tackles, one sack, and two tackles for loss.
With the win, WKU ended a consternating eighteen game home losing streak as well as a four game homecoming losing streak. While percentage points keep the Tops in third place in the conference behind Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State, "Uncle Mo" has definitely returned home to the campus of Western Kentucky University. Head coach Willie Taggart exemplified that happiness more than anyone.
"Who has it better than us," questioned Taggart. "NOBODY!"