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November 15, 2008

Tops doubly 'outplayed' fall 21-10

During a late fourth quarter timeout, WKU's band began to play. As had happened throughout most of the game, as WKU's band began to play, Middle Tennessee's band played as well. Looking towards the WKU band, the MTSU band, twice the size, easily drowned its opponent band out.

The Blue Raiders' band even played during the beginning of WKU's senior introductions before the game. Only after being instructed to by WKU officials, did the band stop playing.

MTSU's football team also drowned out the Toppers' senior day, holding on for a 21-10 win.

The loss extended WKU's losing streak to seven games and dampened the hopes of the 21 Toppers seniors of going out with a win in their last home game.

"I apologized to them," coach David Elson said. "There's not a better group, man, they've been unbelievable, the way that they have persevered and endured through this, from day one, when we started the transition. It just gives you that sick feeling in your stomach to know that they're not gonna have that memory of walking off that field winners. At the same time, they've done a great job of putting it behind them, learning from it and putting it behind them and practicing with enthusiasm, with the right attitude."

MTSU got things going on its second series on a nine-yard touchdown pass. It looked like the Blue Raiders would increase their lead, but on a fake field goal, the pass was intercepted by redshirt freshman Mark Santoro.

On the Toppers' first play of the drive, senior quarterback David Wolke found sophomore wide receiver Wenquel Graves down the right sideline. Graves looked like he would score, but turned around to look for defenders chasing him. The look-see slowed him down and after a stiff arm, Graves was down at the five-yard line after a 58-yard gain.

WKU couldn't punch it in on three tries and settled for a field goal by senior Tanner Siewert, to cut the lead to 7-3.

"As far as the Sun Belt, it's so competitive," senior wide receiver Jake Gaebler said. "One play can make a difference, as we've seen the margin in our Sun Belt games has been that much. You just realize that every play, every snap could be the difference in that game. We have to execute every play in every game, otherwise you're gonna go out and get beat. As we've seen this year, some of the mistakes we've made and not executing, has cost us."

WKU had the Blue Raiders to a fourth down and one on the following series, but after junior tailback Phillip Tanner appeared to be stopped on a sweep left, he bounced off a tackle and rushed 29 yards for a touchdown.

MTSU added another touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard pass, before Gaebler caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Wolke with 11:45 left in the game.

The Toppers forced a fumble and recovered with 7:50 left, but Wolke was sacked two plays later, one of five sacks he took on the day and fumbled the ball back.

"We watched a lot of film on them, Wolke said. "When we would go empty backfield, they didn't bring pressure against Monroe. Against us, they brought the blitz the very first play of the game and they continued the whole game."

Like their own band, the Toppers were no match at times. Defensively, WKU allowed MTSU to convert nine of 17 first downs, accounting for half of the Blue Raiders' first downs.

"We just need to get off the field on third down," Santoro said. "We had quite a few third and tens, third and longs and we didn't do a good job of executing our defense and getting the ball back to the offense. We preach trying to get the ball back to the offense with a short field. That's something we didn't do a good job of today."

Though Wolke had his best passing day (213yards) since he threw for 254 yards against Murray State, the Toppers rushed for just 68 net yards. That was their lowest ground output since WKU accounted for 42 yards at Alabama.

"It mounts every game," Wolke said. The 24-hour rule, I'll remember this for a lifetime. It hurts either way you look at it. The season, just the way it's turned out has been really frustrating. Towards the end of the season, it's kept on going that way. We've been looking for ways to win and it's frustrating. It beats you down, mentally, the morale of the team. It's really tough when you keep losing and losing. I honestly think, everybody has responded well to it. Every game, we continue to come out fighting. Nobody's throwing in the towel or anything like that. We've just gotta continue to do that through this last game."

WKU will have the next two weekends off, before wrapping up the season at Florida International Dec. 6.


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