Hilltoppers win first FBS Bowl, inaugural Bahamas Bowl as they escape Central Michigan


The Hilltoppers have done it! It took moving from the FCS to FBS, being the worst football program in the nation for a couple of years, being snubbed out of two bowl-eligible seasons, losing by three in Detroit and three head coaches, but they’ve by golly done it. The Tops took a second opportunity at the Central Michigan Chippewas in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl and ran them off the island as WKU has won their first ever FBS bowl game in a 49-48 escape from the Chips, in a game that shouldn’t have been as close as it was.

As is custom in WKU games, the Tops struck first after Brandon Doughty hooked up with Jared Dangerfield from 14 yards out on an 11 play drive that took just over three and a half minutes. As easy as it was, the first drive for the Chippewas was even easier, as they only took three plays and less than 90 seconds to score to tie things up ans CMU quarerback Cooper Rush found Titus Davis on the edge of the boundary line in the endzone, and a pretty awesome Davis catch made it a seven-seven game.

That’s as close as the Chippewas would get, although it would come incredibly close.

The Hilltoppers would put up the next three scores, and five of the next six scores, to take a 42-14 lead into halftime. The Tops actually put up really impressive first half numbers, limiting the Chips’ to 43 first half rushing yards, 246 yards overall, six tackles for a loss and an interception. But, the day didn’t start out too hot for the defense; not just with the easy opening drive for CMU, but Chill Williams was ejected from the game in the first quarter after a targeting penalty against Rush.

Yeah, you can’t do that. The bummer of this is, that would be the last play the senior partakes in as a collegiate player. Tough way to end his career.

Out of the halftime break, the Tops forced a CMU punt, got possession back but fumbled inside the redzone, but refused to allow the Chippewas to gain any momentum, forcing them to punt again. Once WKU got the ball back, Doughty handed it off to Ace Wales who took it to the house to truly put the game away at 49-14. Doughty had yet another fantastic outing, completing 31 passes for 486 yards and five touchdowns, one just short of six, which has been done just four times in a bowl game.

Rush, thanks to that huge second half he and the Chips had, actually had a better outing, as he threw for 493 yards on just 28 completions and seven touchdowns, becoming the fourth QB to ever throw for six touchdowns in a single game.

Doughty and Leon Allen actually teamed up to do something no other program in NCAA history have ever done. The 2014 WKU Hilltoppers are the first, and only, team to have a 4,500+ yard passer and 1,500+ yard rusher. Not a bad way to close out a pretty historic year. Speaking of records, Willie McNeal etched his name into the WKU record book as well, as he was able to create separation from the entire CMU defense and made his school-record 169th catch, which also just so happened to be a first half touchdown. Take a look for yourself!

The Tops had complete control of the first half and the third quarter. But, in the fourth quarter, the Chippewas made it way to close of a game. Conservative second half play calling, once again, not only had the Hilltoppers take the offensive pressure off, but with the large lead, the defense nearly squandered the game. A music-city-miracle-esque play with one second on the clock gave Central Michigan the touchdown they needed that would have tied the game, but instead they decided to go for two, and would be denied. Miraculously, the Tops survived and have their first ever FBS bowl victory.

That does it for WKU football in 2014, and it’ll take until about kickoff next year for us to catch our breath from that ending. But that’s not it for us – we’ll have all sorts of off season football coverage in the coming days, weeks and months. Thanks for sticking with us throughout the year, as up and down as it was, and GO TOPS!