WKU football: Taggart talks Saturday’s win, Kawaun Jakes’ progress and Bobby Rainey’s workload

15 11 2010

Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart’s Monday press conference comments:

On last week’s overtime win at Arkansas State:

“No one on our sideline gave up. Even when they were getting ready to punt the ball (in the fourth quarter) you heard guys on the sideline saying ‘you gotta believe, we’re going to win this game.’ And that’s something we haven’t had all year. Especially when things got bad for us. But our guys took a different approach. The football Gods came alive again, I’m a true believer. They said this was a young football team that’s worked hard all year and had some close ballgames, and we’ll make this ball go over the punter’s head. But I’m still going to make them work and win this ballgame.

“And our guys showed that they were. Our team was ready to win, we just had to go out and do it. The football Gods wanted to see if we were ready and our guys were.”

“All year our team’s been learning as we go. Earlier in the year (we wouldn’t have made those plays). And even last week we wouldn’t have. But our guys have been learning and talking about stepping up and making plays. And they were so confident going into the game, even our young receivers were saying ‘we’re going to show up and make plays.’ And they did. Those guys plays with a lot of confidence and they played instinctively. They weren’t robots, and they made plays when they counted. That’s something we haven’t done around here (in a while). That was the only thing we were missing, and we know that every game we’ll be in those situations.”

“The Lafayette game, that part was easy. When you’re up like that it’s easy to play that way and play relaxed. But when you get into those adverse situations it’s hard. It’s hard to stay focused. Especially with our team and where we’ve been. We’ve preached about getting out of that and we knew a time would come where we’d say ‘enough is enough.’ And we were able to do that in (Saturday’s game). I wanted guys coming up to me and saying ‘coach, give me the ball,’ when it’s tough – not being quiet. I wanted that and sure enough I had about 100 guys wanting that ball Saturday. Going for two wasn’t a second thought, because all the guys wanted it. They believed in it and they wanted it.”

On Kawaun Jakes’ game-tying drive:

“It showed what he’s capable of doing. He’s still learning how to play the position. This is his second offense and he hasn’t played a lot of quarterback over his years, and no one has asked him to do what we are. And he’s learning and getting better every single week. The plays he made toward the end of the game were big time. That’s what college football players do. The best thing about it was that he was up and what you wanted a quarterback to be on those sidelines. He was building everyone up and he showed that he was ready and wanted to make that play. And he did it – that was the good thing. And the good thing about that kid is that no matter how much you guys put pressure on him to do this or that or try to bring him down, he’s not letting it rattle him. He doesn’t let that bother him. And that’s great when you have a guy that can do that at that position. Because he’s a teenager and when everything’s put on you and its a team sport (it’s tough). But he’s handled it well and hasn’t gotten mad at anyone. What motivates him is people telling him what he cannot be – and that’s big time.

“I keep re-assuring him that it’s going to be Ok. We as coaches, we watch film, we see him every day, we see it. The one’s making the comments are only watching the games – they’re not seeing the whole picture. They’re going to make those comments, that’s reality. There’s no need to get down or be ticked off. He’s in a situation where he’s in a program that’s been down and hasn’t won in a while and everyone wants to point the finger at someone – and a lot of the times it goes at the quarterback. Everybody has to do their jobs. … That’s part of it. I understand that. That’s why I don’t get down. It does bother me when people are down on him and bring him down because he’s a teenager that’s trying his best and working his tail off, he’s learning. We want him to be Joe Montana right now but he’s not. He’s learning this offense and he’s getting better in this offense and we’re getting better (as a team) in this offense. … I think the kid’s special and has something that can really help this football team down the road.

“That position is different from any other position on the field. That guy’s got to have confidence that the staff and the players are behind him. If you lose that, you don’t stand a chance. You have a lot of things going on during the game and you have guys out there trying to kill you. If you’re not confident or believe that everyone else has confidence in you, you’re not going to be successful. It’s big for him because he’s trying to learn a new offense and do what we’re asking but it’s not quite there yet. And he’s trying to do it with the pressure of everyone wanting him to be the savior. We’re not where we need to be in this program where one guy can be the savior – we need everyone to be the savior. He wants to be, and he’s trying every day. Once we get comfortable and everyone’s on the same page (offensively), you’ll see even more production from that group.”

On guarding against a letdown again this week at home in a rivalry game against Middle Tennessee:

“We’ve been learning all year. We don’t have as many people patting us on the back right now, a lot of people are probably still upset with how we played (over the past two weeks). But I told our guys we don’t have to worry about that anymore. All we have to worry about is us and getting better and taking care of each other. All the other things will come. I think our guys understand that and don’t have the pressure about worrying about everything else. From that standpoint, I think we’ll be fine. Our guys understand that this isn’t just about (Middle Tennessee), we’re at home. You’ve got to take care of home and we haven’t done that all year. They know the importance of that and this is our last chance to do it this year. Everyone has to do a little extra this week to see to it we can find a way to win this ballgame at home.”

On this year’s seniors going into their final home game:

“They’ve been through a lot. There’s not much in the real world that will bother them after what they’ve been through. You appreciate everything they’ve done. I do think the 2010 team needs to be remembered as that cornerstone that started to get our program back to where it belongs. They’ve fought, they’ve been through a lot and they haven’t given up – and that’s what’s beautiful. And those older guys have kept that locker room together. And that’s what you look for as a coach, we hadn’t had that before, and those guys have come together and enjoyed each other. You come out to practice and you can’t tell that we’re 2-8 because those guys enjoy each other and they’re enjoying the moment.

“Part of (the struggles) come because some of them didn’t have to work for what they have now, it was just given to them. It was like going from the projects to Beverly Hills quick. I don’t care who you are, that’s a big culture change. That’s what happened. And we have to learn to appreciate where we’ve been and the people that have come before you. When you get that attitude, you appreciate everything and then you set the example for the young guys to appreciate it, too.”

On how he feels about an MTSU rivalry:

“It’ll be my first game against Middle, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s not a rivalry until we start beating them. We’ve got to beat them. Until you start throwing jabs at each other back and forth, that’s when it becomes a rivalry. It’s something we need around here, and you’ve got rivalries in other sports with Middle – but we’ve got to create that rivalry by the way we play against each other.”

On any calls or texts he’s gotten from former coaching colleagues after making that two-point conversion call last week:

“Oh I received a lot of them. I got some pretty interesting texts, too. It was good. Some of them called me a stud, gutsy call, some other things that aren’t appropriate. They were jacked up for me and happy about it. Some said “I wouldn’t have done that, that’s a little Jim Harbaugh right there.” They were happy for us and happy for our guys. Without our players, I wouldn’t have done that. They wanted it.

“The ones that mattered the most were the one’s I got from the Harbaughs. I got one from all those guys and that always means something to me. They’re always watching and supporting and that means a lot (to me).”

On Bobby Rainey’s pace to break the Sun Belt Conference single-season rush attempt record:

“Bobby’s a stud. He’s what I call a ‘war-daddy.’ He’s everything. He’s the energizer bunny, whatever you want to call him. He just loves playing the game and does whatever it takes to win. He doesn’t care, he’s in for whatever you want and that’s what you like. He doesn’t get down or too excited it’s just ‘whatever you want, coach.’ I’m impressed with the carries he’s been able to take, but as the year’s gone on we’ve found out that this kid’s pretty tough and he can handle some of those things. The kid wants to be in there, he doesn’t want to be on the sidelines. He’s one of the best things we’ve got going for us, why not. Whenever you have a chance to break a record that means you’re doing something well – that means you’re moving in the right direction.”

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