Hilltoppers drop inaugural Conference USA game


Well if you didn’t have enough time to get over Saturday nights loss, then I hope this helps you get over it. Incase you live under a rock – the Hilltoppers traveled to Murfreesboro, Tennessee this past saturday to play their first ever Conference USA game, and who better to open with than long time rival Middle Tennessee State University.

The 90 miles from Bowling Green to the ‘Boro is enough to make any fan of the two schools hype for a rivalry that stand at the top of mid major ranks. The Tops lost the opening kick off and MTSU decided to kick the ball away to the potent WKU offense. Brandon Doughty and company walked onto the field having surpassed 400 yards passing in their two previous games, and the Hilltoppers looked to gain an upper and in the game by driving early. However, they we were thwarted just short of midfield and were forced to punt.

On the ensuing possession, the Blue Raiders went 80 yards in less than five plays behind the legs of quarterback Austin Grammer. After those two series, the game took a turn in the favor of WKU. The Hilltoppers looked strong with Doughty dishing it to multiple receivers all over the field. Grammer himself hung in there throwing it, however MTSU gashed WKU on the ground in the first half.

At half time, the Raiders had 22 rushes for 167 yards – 110 of them coming from the signal caller Grammer. WKU linebacker Nick Holt said in the post game press conference

"In the first half we played zone and that forced myself and the other middle linebacker to respect the pass. However at halftime we made the adjustment to go to man and that’s when we really started to stop the run."

At halftime, Doughty had thrown 32 times with 21 completions with an interception for 324 yards.  As the clock struck 00:00 the Hilltoppers and Blue Raiders were knotted at 24 a piece.

MTSU in their first possession in the second half floundered at midfield and it was much of the same for WKU. In fact, both Western and Middle failed to score in the third quarter. That being said, the fourth quarter was one for the ages in the WKU and MTSU rivalry.

Middle Tennessee would strike first in the final frame, after a two-yard touchdown from one of their committee of running backs Shane Tucker. Even with that, WKU came back with an “anything you can do I can do better,” attitude, as Doughty would find his favorite tight end target, Mitchell Henry, wide open for the 19 yard score. Middle would eat up a ton of clock in the fourth, and would hit a field goal with 2:29 left in regulation. From there, the pressure would be on WKU to tie it or go for the win. With 20 seconds on the clock after driving 60 yards, the Hilltoppers would march out Garrett Schwettman for the 24 yard field goal. After sinking it down the middle the two teams would head to overtime tied at 34.

WKU, like the beginning of the game, would lose the opening coin toss and MTSU would elect to play defense first. Doughty stood tall in the pocket and hit Henry wide open for the 25 yard score for the OT lead. Now, it was time for Grammer and company to come out.

After a sack and a two stops at the line, the Blue Raiders were set up for a fourth and long, a long streak across the middle and MTSU was in business to score and send it to a second overtime.

In the second extra period, MTSU hit a 36 harder and WKU retaliated with a 24 yard field goal to send it to a 3rd OT.

After a failure of a series for WKU and a false start on fourth and goal by right tackle Cam Clemmons, WKU would settle for a field goal. Here the two teams sit, WKU leads 47- 44 and MTSU takes the field needing a touchdown to win it.

Grammer drops back…surveys the field…and lets it fly, hitting Ed’Marques Batties at the seven. Two broken tackles later, Batties walks into the ends zone, the field is stormed by MTSU players and the Blue Raiders head to the locker room 1-0 in CUSA play and a years worth of bragging rights with a 50-47 victory.

For the Hilltoppers, it was yet again an excellent offensive performance only to be followed up by a poor defensive performance by the defense. Coach Brohm in his post game press conference said the everyone was,

"Obviously upset and disappointed in the result but its a log season and that’s the way college football goes these days."

Willie McNeal, touching on his record breaking performance, said

"It’s tough to get excited about breaking records in a losing effort."

For WKU this was a heartbreaker and sent them to 1-2 on the season. With a bye week coming up, the Hilltoppers have the ability to find their identity, rest up, get healthy, and prepare for the Navy rushing attack when they travel to Annapolis on the 27th.