Tops’ two-point conversion shocks previously unbeaten Marshall in OT, 67-66

WKU’s Brandon Doughty (12) releases the ball toward Tyler Higbee (82) during Friday’s 67-66 overtime victory over No. 19 Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia. Higbee would catch the pass and score for a seven-yard touchdown. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Kyle Williams

On Friday, the Hilltoppers accomplished the unthinkable.

WKU (7-5, 4-4 Conference USA) entered the most hostile environment it’s played in all season and miraculously spoiled then-No. 19 Marshall’s (11-1, 7-1 C-USA) chance at its first undefeated season in 15 years. 

The Hilltoppers captured the historic victory in overtime, nonetheless. Trailing 66-59 in the extra period — WKU’s only deficit of the game — redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty fired an almost uncatchable ball to the back of the end zone to set up junior receiver Jared Dangerfield’s tip-toe touchdown that brought WKU within a point.

Instead of sending on the kicking unit, Head Coach Jeff Brohm opted to go for the two-point conversion due to an injury sustained by junior kicker Garrett Schwettman. But as fans witnessed throughout the game and throughout the Hilltoppers’ four-game win streak, there was no doubt.

Brohm called a timeout and drew up the same late-game play they ran in last season’s nail-biting finale — a 34-31 win over Arkansas State — with the same personnel: Doughty and redshirt senior receiver Willie McNeal.

Turns out, the result was the same, too.

“That’s our favorite play. We do it every week — two-point play,” McNeal said following the game. “Usually I’m in the inside. It was a little mixed up. Coach called a timeout to get everyone where they needed to be. I ran the slant, and I saw the guy was already playing inside. Stuck the slant hard and came out, and Doughty just threw a perfect ball.

“I was waiting for my team to come celebrate with me. Like I said, we do it every week in practice. It’s the same routine.”

The two-point conversion might be routine for the Hilltoppers, but the 67-66 overtime victory over the Thundering Herd was anything but. The win marks the first over a ranked FBS opponent in program history, and the 133 combined points scored is the most in any C-USA game.

“It’s definitely one of those games that you’ll remember for a long time,” Brohm said. “It was a statement game. It really showed what Western Kentucky can be in the future… To beat an undefeated opponent in the top-25 on their turf in the last game of the year, it’s just a great way to go out.”

The eight touchdowns thrown by Doughty are the most all-time in any road game for an FBS quarterback. The 15 combined touchdowns between Doughty and Marshall senior quarterback Rakeem Cato is the highest single-game total in FBS history.

The redshirt senior finished the day 34-for-50 with 491 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions, bringing his all-time career touchdown pass total to 58 — the most in program history. His 44 touchdown passes this season are an FBS-high, and the total is tied for 16th most in single-season FBS history.

The remarkable performance at Marshall capped off a record-breaking regular season for the Hilltoppers. WKU set a new mark for points in a season with 528, surpassing the former total of 432 that was reached in 15 games during the 2002 season — three more than the Hilltoppers have played this season.

WKU’s 69 regular-season touchdowns break a 41-year-old record of 62, and its single-game yardage total of 738 against Marshall breaks previous single-game highs set against Bowling Green State (708) and Middle Tennessee State (718).

The Hilltoppers also broke single-season records for total yards, passing yards, completions, touchdown passes, first downs, passing first downs and first-quarter points, setting per-game marks in points, yards, passing yards, touchdowns scored and first downs.

The defense has steadily improved as well, forcing at least one turnover in eight of the past nine games. The four interceptions against Marshall tied a career-high for interceptions thrown by Cato. He had thrown eight in the previous 11 games leading up to Friday’s matchup.             Redshirt sophomore safety Branden Leston nabbed three of the picks one week after he recorded his first-career interception against UTEP.

Brohm said at his Monday morning press conference that the Hilltoppers will focus on schoolwork and the weight room until next week when the team puts together a practice schedule.