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November 20, 2010Sign-up for InsideHilltopperSports.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
Virtually the entire game had been one-sided. A score here would've have put even more distance between the two teams.
On fourth and goal on the Middle Tennessee one yard-line, WKU elected to go for it, leading 26-13 with 10:27 remaining in the third quarter. But the next play completely changed the game. Sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes fumbled the snap. The ball was picked up by senior cornerback Rod Isaac, who returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
The Blue Raiders scored the go-ahead touchdown after the Toppers went three and out, to come from behind for a 27-26 win on WKU's senior day. The Toppers finish the season 0-5 at home.
"It's frustrating," coach Willie Taggart said. "You wanna take care of your home. I don't care who you are or where you are, you take care of your home. You wanna win ball games here. As frustrating as that is, we're losing close ball games, games that we should win. We just didn't do it. It's frustrating because for me personally, one of my own personal goals was to try to win here and try to bring back some excitement here in Bowling Green. We didn't do that, so I'm disappointed that I didn't get our team prepared to win these ball games."
WKU had a chance to take the lead with 2:29 remaining, but junior kicker Casey Tinius had his 34-yard attempt blocked. The Toppers got the ball back with 1:22 left after using a pair of timeouts, but went three and out, with Jakes throwing incomplete to grayshirt freshman wide receiver Willie McNeal.
"That's the most frustrating thing in football, to lose by one instead of a touchdown or something like that," junior running back Bobby Rainey said. "Just to lose by one point, that was very frustrating. But that goes back to executing. If we do that in the first half, with me and the touchdown pass. If I would've caught that, it would've been a different ball game when we have to be going for it on fourth down."
Rainey was a one-man machine for WKU. He rushed for 248 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries, giving him the school single-season record for rushing attempts.
But in the aftermath of the change of events, Rainey's record didn't mean too much. He shouldered much of the loss on one of his few gaffes on the day.
"As far as today, with the carries and the yards that I got, it goes back to that touchdown pass that I dropped," Rainey said. "If we get that touchdown pass, we're up big. I probably wouldn't have even gotten he carries that I got if I would've made that play. Like I said, I'll take the win over yards any day."
Nearly every statistic was in favor of the Toppers. WKU outgained MTSU 395-208, held the ball for nearly 17 more minutes and had 19 first downs, eight more than the Blue Raiders.
The visitors' had just two threatening drives in the game, the latter ending in the deciding touchdown after ten plays and 77 yards, with 4:38 left in the game.
"They sped up the tempo," senior linebacker Chris Bullard said. "We were just caught out of position a lot (on TD drive). As far as the rest of, I don't know, but from what I looked at, they just sped the tempo up a little bit."
But aside from the fumble, the other looming difference came after the Toppers' second touchdown, a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone by junior defensive back Derrius Brooks. Tinius had his ensuing point after attempt blocked.
WKU's seniors will again leave without a win at home for the second straight season. The Toppers' last home win was against Murray State on Sept. 20, 2008. WKU will have one final chance for a win, next Saturday at Troy.
"It's the same way as it's been all the time," Bullard said. "I'm ready t win, get in here and work like we've been doing all season. My mindset is not different at all. We've got a great chance to go out with a win and set a statement for next year."