Bowling Green, Ky. - The White team scored 27 unanswered first-half points en route to a 27-11 victory over the Red squad in Western Kentucky University's annual spring football game Saturday afternoon at a chilly Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. The game brought an end to spring practice for the 2011 Hilltoppers.
White team quarterback Kawaun Jakes was named the game's MVP after completing 10 of 16 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He also picked up 40 rushing yards on nine carries.
"Our guys went out there and competed, which was exciting to see," said Hilltopper head coach Willie Taggart. "I thought it was an evenly matched game, but the White team came out with a purpose and really wanted to win this game - and it paid off for them."
Bobby Rainey got things electrified for the Red team on the opening kickoff, going 76 yard down to the 23 yard line. However, the offense was unable to move the ball as Red was forced to settle for a 40-yard Hendrix Brakefield field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
Jakes completed all five of his pass attempts on the White team's first offensive drive, including a five-yard touchdown completion to Kadeem Jones to the his squad on the board. Jakes completed each of his first seven attempts, finishing the half 10-for-15 for 157 yards and two scores.
Keshawn Simpson - who had 44 rushing yards in the first half - put White up 14-3 with 2:35 to go in the first quarter with an eight-yard scoring run. The White squad outgained the Red 248 yards to 32 in the first half, and scored for the third time in four possessions as Jones found the end zone on a five-yard run to make it a 20-3 score early in the second quarter.
Jakes completed the half with a one-yard scoring pass to Joel German with 2:59 remaining to push the lead to 27-3 as the teams went to the locker room.
"I liked the scheme we came in with, trying to go no huddle and up tempo," said Jakes. "Our receivers were really in tune with what we wanted to do, and it got us in a really nice groove early offensively."
"Kawaun stepped up, and that's what we expect for our quarterback to do," added Taggart. "More importantly, I thought from a leadership standpoint he did some really good things of building his teammates up. He was a totally different person from what we normally see, and his play reflected that in a very positive way."
With a running clock and only 12-minute quarters in the second half, the Red team was not left with a lot of time for a comeback, but did score all nine of the points after intermission. Red was able to take advantage of a special teams miscue late in the third quarter when the snap on a punt attempt sailed long and out of the back of the end zone for a safety, making it a 27-5 score.
The Red team's only forced turnover of the day also led to its only touchdown as William Simmons picked off a Jakes pass and returned it 31 yards down to the seven yard line. On the very next play, Brandon Doughty hooked up with Jonathan Dowling on a seven-yard scoring strike to make it a 27-11 score after the two-point try failed. That would be the final scoring chance of the day, however, as the White team was able to run down the clock and pick up the victory.
Jakes completed passes to six different receivers on the day, including three to German for 25 yards. Rico Brown led the White team with 45 receiving yards on two catches. Simpson led the White rushing attack with 42 yards on 23 carries. For the Red team, Doughty completed six of 23 passes for 72 yards and a score. Rainey caught three of those passes, and also picked up 20 rushing yards on seven carries.
Defensively, C.J. Odom led the Red team with a game-high nine tackles, while Bar'ee Boyd added eight stops. Tyler Julian had five tackles for the White team - including a tackle for loss - and a pass breakup.
With four weeks of spring practice now in the rearview mirror, but Taggart and Jakes were able to reflect on the positives steps WKU can take heading into next fall.
"I think we are 10 times better than we were last spring," said Taggart. "All throughout spring our guys practiced with a purpose, and that's how it was supposed to be. This spring was fun. Our guys went out and worked and competed. I told them we are going to get back to being blue collar - that's what Western Kentucky University football is all about."
"This team made big strides all spring, but we still aren't where we want to be," said Jakes. "We've got the rest of the spring and summer to get back to work, and that's exactly what we're going to do so we are improved even more heading into fall camp."
- WKU -