WKU accepts bid to the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Hilltoppers head coach Jeff Brohm greets fans after Friday’s game in Huntington, West Virginia. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Kyle Williams

For the second time in program history, the Hilltoppers are going bowling.

WKU (7-5) accepted an invitation to the Bahamas Bowl on Sunday for a postseason bout with Central Michigan (7-5) on Dec. 24 at 11 a.m. CT in Nassau, Bahamas.

“It’s definitely a great day to be a Hilltopper,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “We’re excited to be going bowling. We’re definitely thankful for Conference USA and the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, and we’re looking forward for this next challenge. I know our players are extremely happy — it’s something we’ve worked hard for.”

The program’s second bowl bid marks a rematch of the first, as the Hilltoppers dropped a 24-21 decision to the Chippewas in the 2012 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl after coming up just short on a last-ditch drive that could have clinched a victory.

The 7-5 season marks the Hilltoppers’ fourth consecutive bowl-eligible season — the longest active streak in Conference USA — and solidified WKU as one of 29 teams in the country to have recorded seven or more wins in four-straight campaigns.

The Hilltoppers got the bowl nod this season via a four-game win streak — their second consecutive four-game streak to end the season — after sitting at 3-5 on Nov. 1 following a 59-10 loss at Louisiana Tech.

“It’s obviously a tremendous day for the WKU football program,” Athletic Director Todd Stewart said. “But I think also our entire university and the Bowling Green community. We’d like to thank the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl for the invitation that we proudly accept. Certainly would like to thank Conference USA … I especially want to thank our head coach, Jeff, his staff and our players. When we were 3-5 after that Louisiana Tech game, I don’t know how many people really still believed in this football team, but to Jeff and his staff’s credit, they kept coaching. To our players’ credit, they kept working.”

Of the eight rookie head coaches to take over a program in 2014, Jeff Brohm and Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson are the only two to take their respective program to the postseason.

Brohm said the Hilltoppers are set to take finals this week while continually putting in work in the weight room before holding their first bowl practice next Thursday.

WKU will look to clinch its first-ever bowl victory against the Chippewas while also having the opportunity to extend its historic regular season. Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty needs 156 passing yards to reach the 4,500-yard plateau, and junior running back Leon Allen is just 10 yards short of 1,500 rushing yards. If the two reach those marks, the Hilltoppers would be the first team in FBS history with a 4,500-yard passer and a 1,500-yard rusher in the same season.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the program,” Brohm said. “We think this is a great place. We have great leadership here. We have great fan support. We have a great town that enjoys college football … It’s a chance to prove how far we’ve come.”