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Ex-Houston coach Tony Levine reportedly finds new home at WKU

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Former Houston coach Tony Levine — the guy who was fired after winning 21 games in three years and replaced by Tom Herman — will join Western Kentucky’s staff as an offensive assistant, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman.

Levine was fired in December 2014 after coaching Houston to a 7-5 season, but the general feeling around the program appeared to be that he wasn’t keeping it on the same upward trajectory forged by Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin before him. There was some staff instability — he fired offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt two days into the 2012 season — as well as a few embarrassing losses for a program trying to assure its foothold in the ultra-competitive football state of Texas.

At Western Kentucky, Levine will work under third-year-coach-to-be Jeff Brohm, who just steered the Hilltoppers to a 12-2 season. Not only has Western Kentucky made back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history under Brohm, they’ve won both of them. While Levine’s tenure at Houston ended abruptly, he still took the Cougars to two bowl games and should be a nice addition to a coaching staff that has to deal with plenty of personnel turnover from last season.

Gone is 5,000-yard quarterback Brandon Doughty, as well as the team’s third-, fourth- and fifth-leading pass-catchers in receiver Jared Dangerfield (82 REC, 844 yards, 8 TDs), receiver Antwane Grant (55 REC, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and tight end Tyler Higbee (38 REC, 563 yards, 8 TDs).

Brandon Doughty’s 3 TDs lead WKU to Miami Beach Bowl win

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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Western Kentucky (12-2) may have started off slowly against South Florida (8-5) in he Miami Beach Bowl, but the Hilltoppers exploded in the second half. Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty passed three touchdowns in the third quarter as WKU outscored the Bulls 28-7 out of the halftime break en route to a 45-35 victory.

Wester Kentucky used big plays to lead the charge in the second half. Doughty completed a 69-yard pass to Nicholas Norris in the third quarter to take a 17-14 lead on South Florida. The two hooked up again a couple of minutes later for a 55-yard scoring strike. Doughty tossed a third touchdown late in the third quarter, this time to Jared Dangerfield from 28 yards ou to build a 38-21 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

South Florida was not quite down for the count though. In a span of four minutes, South Florida scored two touchdowns with Quinton Flowers passed and ran for a score to trim the Western Kentucky lead to 38-35, but with just over five minutes to play the Hilltoppers padded their lead to 45-35 with a 42-yard touchdown run by Anthony Wales.

Western Kentucky racked up over 600 yards of offense, with Dougthy throwing for 461 yards. South Florida’s offense had a productive day as well, putting together 543 yards of offense.

Western Kentucky is now 2-1 all-time in bowl games, including last year’s thriller against Central Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl. The Conference USA champions also defeated their former head coach, Willie Taggart. Western Kentucky will open the season on the road against Alabama on September 10. The Hilltoppers will also host Vanderbilt next September.

South Florida will have a chance to get off to a good start in 2016 with a home game against Towson. A home game against Northern Illinois and a road game at Syracuse will be good opportunities for some solid wins as well as South Florida could emerge as a trend team in the American athletic Conference. The Bulls also host Florida State next September. Watch out for these Bulls.

Miami Beach Bowl: South Florida defense cooling off explosive WKU

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Conference USA champion Western Kentucky took a while to get going and appeared to be set to tie the Miami Beach Bowl at 14-14 before halftime, but a bad penalty and back-to-back sacks by South Florida’s defense assured the Bulls would keep a 14-10 halftime lead, and perhaps the momentum.

On first and goal from the six-yard line, Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty, and the Bulls sacked WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty on the next two plays for a combined loss of  17 yards to drive WKU out of field goal range, leaving the Hilltoppers to punt the ball away instead.

Western Kentucky could go just seven yards on the first six plays of the game, but the first few possessions of the game for both teams were far from extraordinary. The teams exchanged punts and a turnover on downs on the first five drives of the game. South Florida finally got things going with Quinton Flowers rushing 12 yards for a touchdown to cap a 62-yard drive keyed by back-to-back completions for first downs from Flowers to Rodney Adams and Ryeshene Bronson.

Down 14-0, Western Kentucky finally found a spark with a Doughty pass to  for a 53-yard gain on the first play of a drive midway through the second quarter. Anthony Wales picked up the final 13 yards on the drive for a touchdown. The touchdown had to be upheld by a video review, because it appeared Wales lost control of the football as he crossed the goal line. The official video review led to upholding the call on the field.

Goal line cameras, people. Goal. Line. Cameras. You have the technology. Use it.

South Florida-Western Kentucky should be an early bowl treat

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Two weeks from today, a game that should be among the best bowls of the season will take place. It’s one to mark down on your office calendar to throw on WatchESPN, or if you’re lucky enough to get the week off, make a point to have on TV.

Western Kentucky and South Florida kick off in the W̶i̶l̶l̶i̶e̶ ̶T̶a̶g̶g̶a̶r̶t̶  Miami Beach Bowl at 2:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 21. This is a plea to anyone who likes fun football to find a way to watch this game.

Western Kentucky beat Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA Championship Game last weekend, capping off an 11-2 regular season in which Jeff Brohm’s Hilltoppers averaged 44.2 points per game (4th among FBS teams). Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty completed 71.8 percent of his passes (1st among FBS QBs) for 4,594 yards (2nd) and 45 touchdowns (1st). Junior running back Anthony Wales averaged 6.99 yards per carry (6th among FBS players with 100+ carries) in this pass-happy offense, which consistently fed junior receiver Taywan Taylor, who racked up 79 receptions (21st), 1,363 yards (4th) and 17 touchdowns (2nd).

And this isn’t necessarily a team that only looks good thanks to a weak C-USA schedule — SB Nation’s Bill Connelly’s S&P+ numbers rate WKU as the 11th-best team in FBS. The Hilltoppers’ offense ranks 1st in efficiency, seventh in finishing drives and 11th in explosiveness. This is a top-five passing offense and a top-30 rushing offense, one which scored fewer than 35 points only twice this year (against Vanderbilt and LSU).

On the other sideline is a South Florida team coached by Taggart — who quickly built a solid foundation at WKU from 2010-2012 — who steered his team to a massive turnaround this fall. The Bulls lost three games in a row in the first quarter of the season, and while the opponents were Florida State, Maryland and Memphis, becoming bowl-eligible looked like a difficult task.

After that losing streak, though, the Bulls ripped off wins in seven of their final eight games, with the only loss in there to a very good Navy team. A 44-23 win over Temple nearly upended Matt Rhule’s bid for an conference title game appearance, and a 65-27 stomping of Cincinnati asserted South Florida as one of the better teams in the AAC.

South Florida is very much geared toward running the ball with sophomore running back Marlon Mack (193 carries, 1,273 yards, eight TDs) and quarterback Quinton Flowers (157 carries, 969 yards, 10 TDs). But Flowers has a penchant for throwing for big plays, too, throwing a dozen passes for 40 or more yards with 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Both WKU and USF have decent-to-mediocre defenses — WKU’s ranks 53rd in S&P+, while USF’s is 39th — that may not provide a whole lot of resistance against the powerful offenses in this game. It’ll be played at Marlins Park during the afternoon on a Monday — insert your baseball joke here, mine is that the poor Marlins, with Giancarlo Stanton only playing half a season, hit the second-fewest home runs in the majors this summer — but from afar looks like one of the most entertaining games of bowl season.

 

Western Kentucky pulls away for first Conference USA championship

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Western Kentucky (11-2, 8-0 Conference USA) needed some big plays late in the first half to pull even with Southern Mississippi (9-3, 7-1 Conference USA), but it was all Hilltoppers in the second half as the home team captured its first Conference USA championship in school history.

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty passed for 410 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score in the conference championship victory. Western Kentucky’s defense made plays as well, forcing four Southern Mississippi turnovers in the win. That included three interceptions of Nick Mullens. For WKU, Doughty’s top target was Taywan Taylor, who ended the game with 165 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. D’Andre Ferby helped ice the game for Western Kentucky with a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Western Kentucky added on to its school record for wins in a single season since jumping up to the FBS by picking up its 11th win of the season. Before winning 10 game sin the regular season this fall, the most wins WKU had in a season since making the move up was eight wins, which were earned each of the past two seasons.

The result of the win could also help keep WKU head coach Jeff Brohm on the radar for future coaching searches. Brohm will get a chance to pick up his second bowl win in as many seasons as a head coach.

Despite taking the loss in the conference championship game, there should be no reason to be disappointed at Southern Mississippi. Head coach Todd Monken has done an admirable job turning things around with the program since taking over in 2013. A year after Larry Fedora left for UNC after winning the Conference USA championship, Southern Miss went 0-12 in 2012. Monken won just one game in his first season and three game sin his second. The foundation appeared to be laid and the growing pains worked out for a nine-win season this fall and a chance to win a 10th game once again in a bowl game.