Tuesday, December 23, 2014 | 12:00 pm

Central Michigan vs. WKU

Thomas A. Robinson Stadium | Nassau, Bahamas

Central Michigan


48 Final 49




Offensive Player of the Game

WKU QB Brandon Doughty

Defensive Player of the Game

WKU DE Derik Overstreet

Central Michigan Coach

Dan Enos




Mostly Cloudy, 79°

WKU Coach

Jeff Brohm


WKU survived a furious Central Michigan fourth-quarter comeback, which included a 75-yard last-gasp relay play for a touchdown as time expired, but a broken-up 2-point conversion attempt following the improbable TD gave the Hilltoppers a 49-48 victory and the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl title.

The four-person relay by the Chippewas was an immediate hit on ESPN and social media. The final TD was named the play of the bowl season by ESPN’s SportsCenter and was a finalist for a Best Play ESPY.

WKU (8-5) finally put an end to Central Michigan’s 34-point fourth quarter with a defensive stop in the back corner of the end zone.

Trailing 49-42 with one second remaining, the Central Michigan offense lined up for one final prayer from its 25 that was answered.

Quarterback Cooper Rush heaved one last gasp pass 47 yards down the field where it was caught by Jesse Kroll at the Hilltoppers 28. Then chaos ensued. After laterals from Kroll, Deon Butler and Courtney WilliamsTitus Davis raced 15 yards, dove and grazed the pylon – launching the crowd into pandemonium.

With the WKU lead trimmed to an unimaginably thin 49-48, the Chippewas (7-6) threw caution to the wind and tried for a 2-point conversion in hopes of winning the game. Rush threw for Kroll, but WKU defensive back Wonderful Terry broke up the fade-route pass to give WKU its first FBS bowl victory in school history under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm.

CMU head coach Dan Enos discussed the decision to go for two and the victory. “We didn’t want to go to overtime because we had had trouble stopping them all day,” explained Enos. “I looked at the players and said, ‘What do you got?’ and they said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s win this game.’”

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Player of the Game honors went to WKU’s Brandon Doughty (offense) and WKU defensive end Derik Overstreet (defense). Doughty threw for 486 yards, 350 in the first half with five touchdowns, all to different receivers. Overstreet recorded five tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss that included two second-half sacks.

Before the nightmarish fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers played as crisp and dominant a game as they had all season long.

Doughty threw five touchdown passes in the first half to Jared DangerfieldJoel GermanAntwane GrantMitchell Henry and Willie McNeal to go with a rushing TD from Leon Allen as WKU scored on each of their six first-half possessions against the MAC’s top defense for a 42-14 halftime lead. Rush also threw for a pair of scores to Davis and Williams in the half.

That Hilltopper advantage was extended to 49-14 after Allen scored on a 21-yard run midway through the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was a different story, as Rush connected with Davis for touchdowns twice to cut WKU’s lead to 49-28. Then defensive end Joe Ostman flipped a 52-yard completion to WKU’s McNeal inside out by forcing a fumble at the Central Michigan 13, which was recovered by Chippewas corner Tony Annese. Annese returned the fumble back to the CMU 36, and from there, Central Michigan marched down the field to score on a Rush TD pass to Williams to trail by 14.

WKU was forced to punt on their ensuing possession, and a four-play, 55-second drive capped by a 7-yard TD strike from Rush to Anthony Garland with 1:09 left gave Central Michigan hope.

WKU successfully recovered the CMU onside kick after the score and milked the clock before being forced to punt, which set up the final frenzied play for the Chippewas that left the stadium breathless and WKU in possession of the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl trophy.

Rush set FBS bowl records for touchdown passes with seven and most net passing yards with 255 in the fourth quarter alone. The combined 971 passing yards and 12 TD passes for Doughty and Rush also broke FBS two-team bowl records.

The victory evened the Blue Raiders’ Bahamas Bowl record at 1-1. Middle Tennessee lost in their first trip to Nassau in 2015 against Western Michigan.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill said. “The toughness, the guts, the competitiveness, the resilience, the mental toughness they showed today, was fun to watch. I told them at halftime that I believed in them, and I believed they were made of the right stuff. We had some opportunities that got away from us in the first half, and the score could have been a little bit different. I’m really proud of this team because that was a heck of a fight, and the defense, man, made stop after stop”

The Rockets (7-6) fell to 0-2 in their Bahamas Bowl history. The Rockets lost to FIU in the 2018 game.

Toledo was led by quarterback Dequan Finn, who completed 18 of 39 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns and ran 12 times for 83 yards and a third score, and Bryant Koback, who ran 18 times for 126 yards.

Middle Tennessee got on the board first on a 6-yard TD pass from Vattiato to Yusuf Ali to make it 7-0 with 1:30 left in the first quarter. It was one of a game-high nine receptions for Ali in the game.

Toledo evened the score at 7-7 when Finn kept the ball for a 40-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play with 1:08 gone in the second quarter.

After a Blue Raider punt, Finn connected with Matt Landers on a Bahamas Bowl-record 90-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 with 11:11 left in the half. Landers finished with four receptions for a game-high 137 yards and a TD for the Rockets.

Middle Tennessee tied the game at 14-all with 8:58 to go in the half when Frank Peasant scored from a yard out.

A 32-yard field goal by Thomas Cluckey with 1:05 left in the half gave Toledo a 17-14 lead at intermission.

After a scoreless third quarter, backup quarterback Mike DiLiello scampered up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Middle Tennessee a 21-17 advantage.

Vattiato extended the Blue Raiders lead to 28-17 when he connected with Jarrin Pierce on a 59-yard touchdown strike with 6:24 left in the game. It was one of four receptions for 114 yards for Pierce.

An interception by defensive tackle Zaylin Wood set up a 35-yard field goal by Zeke Rankin to push the Blue Raiders lead to 31-17 with 4:34 left.

The Rockets marched 83 yards in 15 plays to pull within 31-24 on a 13-yard pass from Finn to DeMeer Blankumsee with 1:08 to go.

Ali recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Middle Tennessee was able to run out the clock.

“I’m just so happy for our seniors,” Stockstill said. “They’re going out as champions and winners. When you go to a bowl game, that’s the objective: stay on the field and hold that trophy up.”

Toledo held a slight 447-435 advantage in total offense over Middle Tennessee, but the Blue Raiders held the ball for 33:44.

Toledo led 235-159 in rushing yardage. It was the first time in Bahamas Bowl history that the team that rushed for more yards did not win the contest.

Peasant led Middle Tennessee in rushing with 64 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown.

Toledo linebacker Dyontae Johnson led the Rockets in tackles with 10 total (five solo).



Central Michigan vs. WKU


Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan


Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion


UAB vs. Ohio


FIU vs. Toledo


Buffalo vs. Charlotte


Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo


Miami vs. UAB

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