W. Kentucky 32, Kentucky 31, OT
Western Kentucky confidently waltzed into Kentucky’s
Commonwealth Stadium, and after a little sleight of hand headed
home with perhaps the biggest wins in its football history.
”WKU red is the new blue,” Western Kentucky coach Willie
Taggart said after his Sun Belt squad upended its in-state foe from
the vaunted Southeastern Conference.
The Hilltoppers completed the 32-31 overtime upset when running
back Antonio Andrews hit quarterback Kawaun Jakes on a 2-yard
halfback pass to complete a two-point conversion that wrapped up
It was Western Kentucky’s first win over an SEC program and
first over a Bowl Championship Series conference foe since the
Hilltoppers made the full-time jump to Football Bowl Subdivision in
2009. It also was the school’s first victory in four tries against
the Commonwealth’s flagship university.
”It’s huge for our program,” Taggart said. ”It goes to show
how far we’ve come in just two years. We’ve been at the bottom. Two
years ago we came up here and they beat the bricks off of us. It
was time for us to come up here and play like we’re capable
After Andrews – who had 125 yards on 34 carries – scored his
third touchdown on the night, Taggart called timeout to set up the
winning conversion attempt.
Jakes took the shotgun snap and fired a lateral to Andrews, who
took several steps to his right before pulling up and lofting a
pass to a wide-open Jakes near the left sideline. The quarterback
had a slew of blockers lead the way into the end zone for the
game-winning points, sending the Hilltoppers’ sideline streaming
toward him. Jakes finished the night 16 of 22 for 160 yards with
one touchdown and one interception.
”Our guys had been calling for that play all game,” Taggart
said. ”I knew our defense had been struggling the last part of the
game. I told our guys, `If we score we’re going to go for it all.
We’re playing to win.”’
That set off the wild celebration by the Hilltoppers on the
For the Wildcats and coach Joker Phillips, the stunning loss,
coupled with the season-opening defeat at Louisville, has put them
on the defensive.
The coach declined to say what he told his team following
”That’s our business,” Phillips said. ”Again, we give credit
to Western Kentucky but what we say in our locker room is our
Outside the locker room, Phillips’ job security is a topic of
The defeat ended a 19-game winning streak for Kentucky over
opponents from outside Bowl Championship Series conferences, dating
back to a 28-16 loss to Ohio on Oct. 2, 2004.
Phillips’ support within the Kentucky fan base is eroding.
The announced crowd of 53,980 Saturday night was the smallest
since the final home game of the 2006 season and slightly larger
than the 48,346 who showed up for the Wildcats’ 2012 home opener
against Kent State. That was the smallest home crowd since the 1996
The loss left Kentucky with a 1-2 record and facing a trip to
Gainesville to face No. 18 Florida next Saturday, the first of
eight games remaining on the schedule against Southeastern
Though Taggart took a swipe at his program, Phillips refused to
get into a war of words.
”I’m not about to talk about an opponent,” Phillips said.
”That’s me. Say what you want. I’m not a tough guy. I’m a tough
guy because I’m not going to talk about someone else’s program. I
played at the highest level and it’s a shame the game has gotten to
”I respect Willie. I think he’s done a hell of a job there but
I’m not going to talk about another program or have our kids run
their mouth and disrespect them. Not going to do it.”
Kentucky nearly escaped the carnage with a furious fourth
quarter comeback. The Wildcats trailed 17-0 in the first half and
24-17 with just 2:14 to go when quarterback Maxwell Smith
engineered a 77-yard scoring drive to send the game into
”I still think we’ve got a really good football team,”
Phillips said. ”We’ve got a lot of young players. We’ll continue
to play them and see how much they get week to week.”
The win was the second in as many weeks for a Sun Belt team over
a school from the powerful SEC. Louisiana-Monroe upset then-No. 8
Arkansas in Fayetteville on Sept. 8 and nearly did the same to
Auburn earlier Saturday. The loss was Kentucky’s second to an
in-state foe this season, as the Wildcats were shellacked 32-14 by
Louisville in the season opener.
Kentucky scored first in overtime against the Hilltoppers on a
12-yard rush by Jonathan George. The Wildcats had Western Kentucky
facing fourth-and-2 from the 5-yard line before being penalized for
roughing the passer. Western Kentucky’s Andrews scored on the next
play and the Hilltoppers called timeout to set up the trick play
for the win.
”We’re in man-to-man coverage and the only guy you don’t have a
man accounted for is the quarterback,” Phillips said of the
conversion attempt. ”Great play.”
The Hilltoppers dominated early. They raced out to a 17-0
first-half lead, intercepting Kentucky’s Maxwell Smith three times
– the sophomore quarterback would add another later. Smith did lead
Kentucky on a 77-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 22-yard,
game-tying touchdown pass to wide receiver DeMarcus Sweat.
Jakes completed 16 of 20 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown
and Andrews rushed 34 times for 123 yards and three scores to lead
the Hilltoppers’ upset victory.
Smith entered the game ranked 24th nationally in total offense
but struggled from the outset before coming to life late,
completing 37 of 60 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and
four interceptions. Smith came in having not thrown an interception
in 89 pass attempts.
Jonathan Dowling intercepted Smith for the third time – the
fourth Western Kentucky interception – early in the fourth quarter
but fumbled on the return and Kentucky offensive tackle Darrian
Miller recovered, giving the Wildcats another chance. Western
Kentucky’s defense held firm again, breaking up a Kentucky pass on
fourth-and-7 at its own 33 to maintain its 24-17 lead.