WKU upsets undefeated Marshall 67-66; U of L withstands UK upset bid 44-40
By Jim Turner


Posted on November 30, 2014 6:43 PM



Bringing back memories of Western Kentucky’s win at Kentucky a few years ago, the WKU Hilltoppers went for a two-point conversion in overtime Friday, although they needed just one point to tie the game. And like that game at Lexington, the conversion was successful and Toppers came away with a significant victory.

This win came, however, against a better opponent than the Toppers had faced in winning against UK twice, under coaches Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino. It was even more impressive than their consecutive wins over Navy the past two years under Petrino and current coach Jeff Brohm.

This victory came against undefeated and nationally ranked Marshall at Huntington, W.Va. Marshall was considered the best “mid major” team in the nation before the season began and had done nothing to diminish that lofty status. The Herd had won 13 consecutive games.

It was also one of the most memorable games nationally this season. WKU won 67-66 in a shootout. WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty threw a Conference USA-record eight touchdown passes while highly regarded Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato threw seven scoring passes. Those 15 combined touchdown passes stand as a Division I record.

The pass that will be most remembered, however, was the two-point conversion in which Doughty found veteran receiver Willie McNeal in the end zone.

Brohm didn’t want to prolong the game and he knew that kicker Garrett Schwettman had suffered an ankle injury on a blocked field goal in the third quarter.

In addition to the 67 points Western scored, the Toppers piled up a school-record 738 yards against the Marshall defense which had been the best in the conference.

It capped a dizzying contest that broke numerous records and probably ended Marshall's chance to play in a top-tier New Year's bowl.

The 15 combined TD passes were the most in a game involving an FBS team. Houston and Eastern Washington combined for 14 in 1990, and the record for two FBS teams was 13 accomplished four times.

A Marshall defense that was the best in the conference allowed a school-record 738 yards.

The teams tied the Bowl Subdivision record for the most combined points scored in a game involving a ranked team, set when West Virginia beat Baylor 70-63 in 2012. It was the highest-scoring game in Conference USA history, surpassing East Carolina's 65-59 win over Marshall in double overtime in 2012.

Doughty increased his FBS-leading TD pass total to 44. He broke the previous conference record of six TD passes set on eight occasions. He finished 34 of 50 for 491 yards. Topper running back Leon Allen ran for 237 yards and two scores.

Cato, finished 29 of 46 for 417 yards, but also threw four interceptions, all leading to Western Kentucky touchdowns. The Hilltoppers' Branden Leston had three first-half interceptions.

Marshall trailed by as many as 21 points (the Toppers led 28-7 in the first quarter) but scored the final 10 of regulation, including Cato's 5-yard scoring pass to tight end Eric Frohnapfel with 39 seconds left in the fourth that tied it at 59-59. In overtime, Cato threw a 25-yard scoring pass in overtime to Hyleck Foster to give Marshall its first lead.

On Western Kentucky's overtime possession, Doughty found Jared Dangerfield in the back of the end zone from 25 yards out. After Marshall called timeout, Doughty threw to a wide-open McNeal in the end zone for the win.

Marshall's Steward Butler ran for 233 yards and two scores after starter Devon Johnson left the game with an injury in the second quarter.

In the first half, the teams combined for 91 points and 804 yards total offense, just missing the FBS record for a half of 94 points in a half set by North Texas and Navy in 2007.

Tyler Higbee caught three of Doughty’s touchdown passes and six overall for 99 uards. Dangerfield caught 8 passes for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Taywan Taylor caught 4 passes for 122 yards, one of them for a 75-yard TD. Allen had 5 catches, one of them for a score. The other TD was caught by Joel German. In addition to the winning catch, McNeal pulled in four more aerials for 24 yards.

WKU and its fans have to wait a couple of weeks to learn which bowl invitation they will receive. This is the fourth straight season the Tops have been bowl-eligible under three different coaches. They’ve only been invited to one, however, and had to play it without Taggart as coach, since he had accepted the South Florida job between the regular season and the bowl.

Coach Bobby Petrino has made his first season away from Bowling Green meaningful. Saturday his Louisville Cardinals withstood UK’s best effort of the season in a 44-40 win at Papa John Stadium. It was Kentucky’s fourth straight win over the Cats. Petrino, who is in his second stint as the U of L coach, has never lost to Kentucky while at Louisville.

Petrino had to go to his third-string quarterback early. Starter Will Gardner was lost for the season several games ago. His successor,, Reggie Bonnafon, suffered a knee injury early in this one.

Redshirt freshman Kyle Bolin of Lexington, who had turned down UK recruiters for Louisville, came in to complete 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns. All-America candidate DeVante Parker caught six of those passes, three of them going for touchdowns.

Still Coach Mark Brooks’ Cats played well on defense. Fred Tiller scored on an interception return and big Mike Douglas was impressive in returning a fumble for a score. Quarterback Patrick Towles, who had managed only 42 passing yards in the first three quarters, came to life in the fourth quarter. Stanley ‘Boom’ Williams ran well for UK. The Cats took the lead twice in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t hold on.

UK lost its final six games of the season and finished 5-7, out of bowl contention for the fourth straight year.

It was a good day for Louisville’s new conference, the ACC. The ACC went 4-0 against the distressingly mediocre SEC East, with Florida State beating Florida, Georgia Tech edging Georgia, Clemson topping South Carolina, and Louisville holding off Kentucky.

Petrino and his Cardinals (9-3) now wait to see which bowl awaits them. The Orange Bowl, where U of L established itself as a national power under Coach Charlie Strong two years ago by throttling Florida, is a possibility, but many are hoping they will end of in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

 




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