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November 1, 2008The trip down the field, with 2:25 left in the game was relatively easy for WKU.
It was the last yard that proved impossible.
Trailing 45-40 and 14 seconds left, the last thing senior quarterback David Wolke could do was take a sack. Wolke avoided the sack, on third and goal, but as he was being tackled, through the ball up for grabs. North Texas junior linebacker Tobe Nwigwe was the recipient of the airborne ball. He took it the distance, 97 yards, crossing the opposite goal line as time expired, giving the Mean Green a 51-40 win.
"Everybody needs to understand, winning to us is very important," Wolke said. "This is, for me, it's been some of the toughest times in my life. I can't stand to lose. It goes with everybody and it just hurts, just for the guy next to ya. It's tough. It's so frustrating. We feel like we're giving everything we have and we're spilling our soul out into everything and working, fighting. It's just frustrating because we don't come up with a win and it's just so close sometimes."
The Toppers had three cracks at getting in the end zone on that last series. First Wolke was stopped, then junior running back Tyrell Hayden, the same.
"You've got two plays," coach David Elson said. "Throw the ball, the clock stops, you've got a quarterback that makes a good decision and if what we want is not there, then you get rid of it and the clock stops and we've got a play called to go back and, the last play of the game, win the game."
The game had a little bit of everything. The Mean Green and Toppers combined for 35 points not ten minutes into the game. Then, the scoring settled down. A North Texas field goal in the second quarter gave the Mean Green a 24-14 lead at halftime.
"Defensively, I think we had great enthusiasm coming out of the locker room to begin the game," senior defensive end Dan Cline said. "Every motivational tactic that can be possibly used on kids like us, Jack Harbaugh, the legend, came back and talked to us last night. We were ready to go. Mentally we didn't come flat, to perform the way we wanted to. In the first quarter, their first couple of drives, no, but you're gonna have that in life."
North Texas pushed the lead to 17 with a nine-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Giovanni Vizza to senior wide receiver Brock Stickler.
But, the Toppers still had life in them.
WKU pulled to within four on two more touchdowns before the kicking woes began. After the second touchdown, there was a botched extra point attempt. The Toppers got another chance after a personal foul penalty on North Texas. On the next try, senior kicker Tanner Siewert pushed the kick wide right.
After holding the Mean Green to three and out, WKU took the lead 34-31 on a 25-yard run by Hayden. North Texas retook the lead on its ensuing possession with a touchdown pass, but WKU blocked the point after try.
With 9:54 left in the fourth quarter, Wolke put the Toppers back in front with another touchdown run. North Texas returned the favor with a blocked extra point try of their own, which was scooped up by Mean Green sophomore linebacker Craig Robertson and run back for two points.
"That's Murphy's Law," Elson said. "Tanner's our guy, Tanner's done a heck of a job. I wish I had an answer for you, but like I said, it's ironic things that you practice, you do everything and it's the game of football. That's why people come to watch, that's why we play, is because you never know what to expect. It tests you."
North Texas climbed back in front with a 27 yard touchdown pass from Vizza to senior wide receiver Casey Fitgerald with 2:27 left before WKU faltered on their last attempt.
WKU and North Texas combined for 891 yards, 504 coming from the Toppers, in a game that lasted three hours and 46 minutes.
The win is North Texas' first on the season, while the losing skid now extends to five for WKU. The Toppers travel to Troy next week after a game of the same old story for WKU, with more costly mistakes, one in particular that proved to be the difference-maker.
"I think, as far as game-planning and working on things, we're right there," junior wide receiver Jake Gaebler said. "I think the most important thing is just staying together, through tough times. We've got a great bunch of guys on this football team and we just have to stay together and continue to encourage each other, work hard and I think if we do that, we'll get this thing turned around."