Entering the fourth quarter with a seemingly comfortable 49-14 lead, Western Kentucky appeared to be on the verge of winning the football program’s first-ever bowl game. 15 minutes of game time later? Wow. Just, wow.
Central Michigan scored a whopping five touchdowns in the final frame, including a multiple-lateral one with no time remaining on the clock, to pull to within one point. An extra point would’ve improbably sent the game into overtime; much to head coach Dan Enos‘ credit, he got his full Tom Osborne on and eschewed the PAT in favor of a two-point conversion.
The Cooper Rush pass into the end zone was knocked away, however, giving the Hilltoppers a thrilling 49-48 win in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. But that touchdown leading up to the to the failed two-point try, the Hail Mary Hook-And-Lateralis one for the postseason history books.
While that was the play of the young bowl season thus far, and while Rush set an all-time bowl record with seven touchdown passes, breaking the mark of six previously held by Washington State’s Connor Halliday (2013 New Mexico Bowl), West Virginia’s Geno Smith (2012 Orange Bowl) and Iowa’s Chuck Long (1984 Freedom Bowl), it was Brandon Doughty who was named the Player of the Game.
The nation’s leading passer entering the game, Doughty passed for 486 yards and five touchdowns. 350 of those yards and all five scoring tosses came in the first half as the high-powered WKU offense hit the snooze button in the second half.
This game marks the fourth times this season Doughty has passed for 400-plus yards. The fifth-year senior passed for 300 or more yards in 10 of WKU’s 13 games this season, and will finish 2014 with 4,830 passing yards. Over the past three games, Doughty has thrown 18 touchdown passes, including eight in the regular-season finale against eventual Conference USA champion Marshall.
In that frenetic fourth quarter, though, Doughty and the Hilltopper offense went stagnant as they punted three times and fumbled once. At the same time, CMU scored touchdowns on all five of its fourth-quarter possessions.