WKU captures its first C-USA win in dramatic fashion over Old Dominion, 66-51

Sophomore linebacker Drew Davis (34) is mobbed by teammates, including sophomore defensive back Marcus Ward (8), after making a huge hit on an Old Dominion kick returner during the second half of WKU’s Oct. 25 game against the Monarchs. Davis had two tackles as the Hilltoppers defeated ODU 66-51. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Kyle Williams

Despite allowing 643 yards of total offense, the Hilltoppers used a game-saving interception and touchdown return in the fourth quarter to seal a 66-51 victory over Old Dominion on Saturday in Smith Stadium.

The dramatic finish marked the first Conference USA win for WKU (3-4, 1-3 C-USA) in program history, and the 66 points scored is a tribute of sorts to former Hilltopper legend Jimmy Feix, who wore the number 66 in his playing days for WKU. It was the first WKU home game since Feix’s passing.

“Obviously, it was another exciting game for us,” Brohm said. “Never a dull moment. But, as you guys know, that’s how it’s going to be this year. I’m excited that we won. I’m happy for our guys, happy for our coaches, our players, everybody that put in a lot of hard work to find a way to win.”

The Hilltoppers totaled 601 yards of offense, aided by redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who tallied 371 yards on 23-of-26 passing for five touchdowns, all of which came in the first half. With a 34-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Taywan Taylor in the second quarter, Doughty became WKU’s all-time leader in single-season touchdown passes with 23, breaking Kawaun Jakes’ record of 22 that was set in 2012.

Doughty and company scored on 10 of 13 possessions, and the 66 points scored is the highest total in program FBS history.

“From the beginning of the season, I thought we had a heck of a squad as an offensive group,” Doughty said. “I thought we came together today. Our goal is to score every time we get the ball, and I think that’s a realistic goal. We have the talent to do it.”

Junior running back Leon Allen tallied a career-high 183 rushing yards and 213 all-purpose yards for two touchdowns. Allen’s career night proved to be vital, as it opened up several opportunities in the passing game.

Old Dominion drove to the WKU three-yard line looking to take its first lead of the game with 8:54 remaining before quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s pass was tipped by redshirt sophomore defensive back Branden Leston and intercepted by redshirt freshman Juwan Gardner, who took it 96 yards for a touchdown to give WKU a 63-51 lead, sealing the victory.

“I was just thinking about making a play for the team,” Gardner said. “I had the opportunity, so I made the most of it.”

Allen and junior receiver Antwane Grant each tallied two touchdowns. Grant scored on passes of six and 16 yards from Doughty. Doughty also recorded touchdown passes of 19, 34 and 45 yards to redshirt junior receiver Jared Dangerfield, sophomore receiver Taywan Taylor and redshirt senior receiver Joel German, respectively.

WKU also got scoring contributions from the defense and special teams with Gardner’s 96-yard interception return for a touchdown coupled with redshirt freshman Kylen Towner’s 94-yard kickoff return, which gave the Hilltoppers a 49-37 lead with 11:09 left in the third quarter.

WKU will be back in action next Saturday, Nov. 1, as the Hilltoppers travel to Ruston, Louisiana for a bout with L.A. Tech at 2 p.m.