ANNAPOLIS, Md.- Redshirt freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes had everyone fooled.
Late in the second quarter and at the Navy one-yard line, Jakes faked the handoff to sophomore Bobby Rainey. As the defense collapsed on Rainey, Jakes ran a bootleg left, untouched for a touchdown.
Starting in place of senior quarterback Brandon Smith, Jakes was the surprise of the night WKU, who showed plenty of mettle, but in the end had the same result as the previous three games with a 38-22 loss to the midshipmen.
"The O-line was protecting well, the receivers were catching balls and then the running game was working," Jakes said. "Off the pass and the running game, (the offense) was coming along real well."
Jakes had a passing day unlike any the Toppers have seen in a while, completing 22 of 28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Jakes' 78 percent completion rate was the highest since Justin Haddix completed 80 percent of his passes against Western Illinois in 2006.
"He wasn't exactly perfect, but Kawaun, when we named Brandon the starter in the pres-season, the way he responded to that was mature, professional and competitive," coach David Elson said. "He's prepared for this. That's a great example for entire football team, is when your opportunity comes, you've gotta be ready. He was ready and he was on it. We revelaed a heck of a quarterback today."
The Toppers weren't exactly ready to seize the opportunity for their first win of the season. After Navy scored on its opening possession of the game, WKU drove the ball to the Midshipmen's one-yard line. Jakes fumbled the snap from center and the ball was recovered by Navy. The ensuing 18-play, 85-yard drive ended in a field goal.
"It really did hurt," Jakes said. "We were on the one yard line and we should've put seven points on the board. Me and the center, the quarterback-center exchange, it was just our fault. Can't blame anybody but us."
WKU also missed a 29-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Casey Tinius on its opening second half possession and was flagged ten times for 57 yards.
Defensively, the Toppers struggled in containing the Navy triple-option attack, as the Midshipmen ran for 383 yards on 64 carries. Junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs also completed four of five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
"They do a good job of everything," sophomore safety Mark Santoro said. "That was one of the toughest things for us, was playing the run then all of a sudden catching us off-guard with that pass."
It's still likely a pleasant surprise for Topper fans that all is not lost this season. There's a new quarterback and one who's got the offense in a gear not seen in some time, with Sun Belt Conference play beginning Oct. 10 against Florida International.
"What I told them was 'hey, everybody's 0-0," Elson said. "From our fans' perspective, I hope everybody was watching and saw what this team can be capable of and really gets behind them."