5 Thoughts On The Popeye's Bahamas Bowl

5 Thoughts and what's next for the Popeye's Bahamas Bowl

Dec. 24 Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl
WKU 49, Central Michigan 48

And You Care Because … In one of the wackiest and wildest bowl games ever, Central Michigan roared back down 49-14 in the fourth with five Cooper Rush touchdown passes including a 75-yard Hail Mary/multi-lateral pass play that finished up with Titus Davis diving into the end zone with no time left on the clock, but Rush misfired on the two-point conversion attempt. In all, Rush set a bowl record with seven touchdown passes including four to Davis from 21, 12 and 23 yards out before the final play, but WKU had an okay offensive showing, too. Brandon Doughty threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers, and Leon Allen and Anthony Wales each ran for scores on the way to the big lead, but the D didn’t hold on until the very, very end.
What Else? WKU QB Brandon Doughty completed 31-of-42 passes for 486 yards and five scores
- Central Michigan QB Cooper Rush completed 28-of-45 passes for 493 yards and seven touchdowns with a pick, and ran eight times for 26 yards
- Central Michigan WR Titus Davis caught six passes for 139 yards and four scores
- Total yards: WKU 646 – CMU 607
Game Rating: A

By Pete Fiutak
1. I don’t care that CMU missed the two-point conversion. Winning the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl doesn’t matter in any way, shape or form considering all anyone will remember, or will notice on the highlights, is THE play. It might be like a Tin Cup ending in a lot of ways, but it was as improbable a finish as you’ll ever see – and not just because of the 75-yard, one-second, several lateral, dive to the pylon touchdown. You could sense it coming with CMU pushing and pushing and pushing, but, obviously, you couldn’t see THAT coming. For a bowl season that’s been a colossal clunker so far – outside of a punchy Miami Beach Bowl – this is exactly what was needed. Offense, offense, offense …

Okay, it would’ve been a better narrative had CMU come up with a better two-point conversion. While the game became shockingly tight in the final quarter, capped by an all-time great Hail Mary, Western Kentucky just moved into contention in the race to represent the Group of Five in a 2015 New Year’s Six bowl game.

Before inexplicably tapping the brakes, the Hilltoppers put on a show in the Bahamas, strafing Central Michigan through the air to build an early lead that eventually held up. Rookie Jeff Brohm, the only coach to defeat Marshall this season, has a good thing going on The Hill, devising an offensive attack that might be even more potent a year from now. Brohm will be back, but so will leading rusher Leon Allen and senior gunslinger Brandon Doughty, who’s been granted a sixth year of eligibility after throwing a nation’s-high 49 touchdown passes this season.

Western Kentucky turned heads this afternoon, but this program has only just begun to impress under Brohm. It has a chance to be the Thundering Herd of 2015, with three road games versus Power Five teams, Indiana of the Big Ten and Vanderbilt and LSU of the SEC. Win two of the three, along with a Conference USA crown, and the Toppers might elevate from Nassau to a far more prominent stateside venue a year from now.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. While the game became shockingly tight in the final quarter, capped by an all-time great Hail Mary, Western Kentucky just moved into contention in the race to represent the Group of Five in a 2015 New Year’s Six bowl game.

Before inexplicably tapping the brakes, the Hilltoppers put on a show in the Bahamas, strafing Central Michigan through the air to build an early lead that eventually held up. Rookie Jeff Brohm, the only coach to defeat Marshall this season, has a good thing going on The Hill, devising an offensive attack that might be even more potent a year from now. Brohm will be back, but so will leading rusher Leon Allen and senior gunslinger Brandon Doughty, who’s been granted a sixth year of eligibility after throwing a nation’s-high 49 touchdown passes this season.

Western Kentucky turned heads this afternoon, but this program has only just begun to impress under Brohm. It has a chance to be the Thundering Herd of 2015, with three road games versus Power Five teams, Indiana of the Big Ten and Vanderbilt and LSU of the SEC. Win two of the three, along with a Conference USA crown, and the Toppers might elevate from Nassau to a far more prominent stateside venue a year from now.

By Pete Fiutak
3. Sometimes bowl games matter – they’re like extra time to figure out what you’ve got going into the offseason. Central Michigan’s valiant effort might have come up short, but with Cooper Rush bombing away for six touchdowns, and with the fight the team showed when all appeared lost, this was an okay loss in a strange, vacant bowl game. Neither team played any defense, but that was to be expected. It was the play of Rush that CMU can take into the offseason as someone to build around for what might be a huge 2015. Head coach Dan Enos is building things back up, and while there’s big turnover on both sides of the ball this should be a fun team to watch out for.

4. What’s next for Western Kentucky
After so much fun and so many points and yards, the offense has to replace QB Brandon Doughty. However, most of the key parts are back including three starters up front to try to get leading rusher Leon Allen rolling again. The top five rushing leaders return along with receivers Taywan Taylor and Jared Dangerfield. Willie McNeal is done, and TE Mitchell Henry is finished, but don’t expect the O to drop off if Doughty can somehow be replaced.

Defense might have been optional at times throughout the year, but it comes back experienced with nine starters returning including all four on the line. Leading tacklers Nick Holt and Dejon Brown are back in the linebacking corps, and good hitters Marcus Ward and Branden Leston are back at safety – the team’s top four tacklers are back. PK Garrett Schwettman and P Joseph Occhipinti return.

5. What’s next for Central Michigan
There was a reason the program had a breakthrough season – there was a ton of experience returning. The cupboard won’t be bare, but WR Titus Davis was a special playmaker and RB Thomas Rawls was outstanding when he got his chances. Saylor Lavallii, Martez Walker and Devon Spalding can handle the work in the backfield. Three starters return up front, and QB Cooper Rush should be a statistical machine.

LB Justin Cherocci was a heart-and-soul type who’ll be missed in the middle, and three starters are gone in the five-man secondary, but there’s hope up front with ends Joe Ostman and Blake Serpa returning to a strong-looking D line. Cherocci led the team in tackles, but the next three are back, while the return of Serpa is a big deal for the pass rush. P Ron Coluzzi and PK Brian Eavey are back.


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