Western Kentucky knows its defensive blunders on what became the final touchdown of the Bahamas Bowl will stay on highlight reels for a long, long time.
That’s fine with the Hilltoppers — because they found a way to hang on for an unforgettable win.
Wasting nearly every bit of a 35-point lead and giving up the most improbable of touchdowns on the final play from scrimmage, Western Kentucky overcame a record-setting seven touchdown passes from Cooper Rush and beat Central Michigan, 49-48, on Wednesday in the first bowl game played outside the U.S. or Canada since 1937.
“There’s been a lot of twists and turns to all of our games,” Western Kentucky Coach Jeff Brohm said.
Not like this.
Central Michigan (7-6) scored the final five touchdowns of the game, including a three-lateral, 75-yard dazzler on the final play during which six Chippewas — one center, one quarterback and four receivers — touched the ball. Officially, it went down as a touchdown pass to Titus Davis by Rush, his seventh scoring toss of the day, one more than anyone had ever thrown in any bowl game.
Central Michigan went for a two-point conversion and the win, only to have it broken up by Western Kentucky’s Wonderful Terry.
A wonderful finish, indeed.
“I want to tell Central Michigan that’s one heck of a job by them,” Brohm said. “They showed the heart and spirit that this game is all about.”
Here’s how the miracle happened:
The Chippewas got the ball on their own 25 with a second remaining after a punt, trailing, 49-42. Rush threw deep to Jesse Kroll, who caught the ball between three defenders at the 29. Kroll advanced the ball slightly before lateraling to Deon Butler, who got the ball to Courtney Williams just before getting tackled.
Williams then tossed the ball to Davis, who caught it at the 15 and outran three Western Kentucky players to the end zone, reaching to knock over the pylon as he fell out of bounds to complete the bizarre play.
Central Michigan Coach Dan Enos said he originally planned to kick the extra point. He then changed his mind, a decision that’s surely going to be debated.
“Cooper had thrown seven touchdown passes already in the game, so we figured he was pretty hot,” Enos said. “We didn’t want to go to overtime because we had trouble stopping them all day. We thought we had momentum so we’d try to win the game.”
When the conversion pass hit the ground, only then could the Hilltoppers exhale.
“It was a roller-coaster ride,” said Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty, who threw five touchdowns passes to increase his nation-leading total to 49 for the season. “We were just lucky and blessed that we got the win.”
Rice 30, Fresno State 6: Driphus Jackson played his best game of the year by passing for 318 yards and three touchdowns, and the Owls completed a remarkable turnaround with a victory over the Bulldogs in the Hawaii Bowl.
Rice (8-5) started the season 0-3 and ended it with its second bowl win in the last three years.
Jackson was accurate with his arm and dangerous with his feet, rushing for 41 yards and some key scrambles out of trouble. The Owls got plenty of help from their defense.
Fresno State (6-8), the only team with a losing record to play a bowl game, broke its own Hawaii Bowl record for fewest points. It was the fewest points Fresno State scored all season.
The Bulldogs lost their sixth consecutive bowl game.