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Veltkamp leads monumental comeback in Famous Toastery Bowl

Kayden Mulrooney
Junior wide receiver Dalvin Smith (17) runs the ball down the field during a game against Houston Christian on Sept. 9, 2023.

Third-string freshman quarterback Caden Veltkamp came off the bench to throw for 383 yards and five touchdowns, three of which went to junior wide receiver Dalvin Smith, as WKU overcame a 28-point deficit to defeat the Old Dominion Monarchs in an improbable 38-35 overtime win at the Famous Toastery Bowl. 

“I told these guys we were going to win the game, as soon as I went in I said we were going to win, not a question,” Veltkamp said. “It took to the very last play to do it, but it’s because of the guys around me, these guys played unreal.” 

In a game that saw Old Dominion score 28 straight points in the initial 17 minutes, WKU outscored Old Dominion 31-7 in the second half and completed the fourth largest comeback in bowl game history. 

Veltkamp, a Bowling Green Native, was thrust into the game in the second quarter and gave life to a stagnate Hilltopper offense.  A crucial interception in the fourth quarter by junior defensive back Anthony Johnson Jr., along with a blocked field goal late in the fourth helped WKU force overtime.  There, the hot Hilltoppers blocked another field goal, which set up freshman kicker Lucas Carneiro for the game-winning 29-yard field goal, completing the comeback. 

The first quarter was a disaster for the Hilltoppers. Old Dominion scored 21 points off of three WKU turnovers, including a pick-six.  The Monarchs racked up 146 total yards in the period while holding WKU to 38. 

However, WKU started to show life in the second quarter. Redshirt freshman starting quarterback Turner Helton was benched and replaced by Veltkamp, who began the comeback.  Dalvin Smith grabbed his first touchdown of the game with one hand to put the Hilltoppers on the board.  The WKU defense allowed only one touchdown in the quarter, slowing down the Monarch offense entering halftime. 

Opening the third quarter, Smith caught his second one handed touchdown of the game, but Old Dominion scored again, stretching the lead back to 21.  It was the first quarter WKU did not turn the ball over. 

WKU outscored Old Dominion 21-0 and outgained the Monarchs 166-15 in the fourth quarter.  Veltkamp gave Smith his third touchdown grab and threw two more to junior receiver Elijah Young and freshman K.D. Hutchinson. Hutchinson caught the game-tying touchdown on fourth and goal with 19 seconds left in regulation.  

In overtime, WKU blocked another field goal attempt, giving them full control of the game.  Freshman receiver Easton Messer’s 13-yard catch and run on third and 10 set up Carneiro’s game-winning kick. 

“To win a bowl game like this is what bowl games are all about,” Head Coach Tyson Helton said.  “We’re very proud of our football team as a lot of people stepped up today and a lot of guys who haven’t played much football helped get probably one of the biggest wins I’ve been a part of.” 

The win concludes WKU’s 2023 season with an 8-5 mark. 

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