Toppers drive 99 yards, beat ASU 34-31

Trailing 27-31 with 5:30 to play, WKU drove 99 yards, ending with a 2-yard touchdown strike from junior quarterback Brandon Doughty to junior receiver Willie McNeal with 10 seconds left on the clock.

When Western Kentucky defeated Navy on Sept. 28, some Topper fans called it one of the biggest home victories in school history.

Saturday night's 34-31 win over Arkansas State was bigger.

The Tops secured an 8-4 overall record after defeating the visiting Red Wolves, their best season record of the FBS era and a likely invitation to the bowl.

Trailing 27-31 with 5:30 to play, WKU drove 99 yards, ending with a 2-yard touchdown strike from junior quarterback Brandon Doughty to junior receiver Willie Mcneal with 10 seconds left on the clock.

"Wow, what a great win for us," Petrino said. "I'm just really proud of our players.

"We stuck together and kept competing. We had a number of things that didn't go our way and certainly could have cashed it in. It just a credit to our seniors… to stay fighting. When you win a game like that, there's a lot of plays earlier in the game that allowed us to get into position to win it like that. Real excited about it, very happy about it, and very proud of our assistant coaches, who did an excellent job, and our players that just competed extremely hard."

The 16-play drive featured a mixture of run and pass plays, as WKU methodically progressed down the field.

A 39-yard pass from Doughty to Andrews put WKU on the ASU 18, followed by a 10-yard Andrews rush to the ASU 8.

Then a 2-yard Andrews run gave WKU a 2nd-and-6, but Doughty threw two incompletions, resulting in a 4th-and-6th.

Doughty threw a completion to freshman receiver Nicholas Norris in the endzone, but it was called back for a block below the waist call on WKU, putting the Toppers in an almost impossible 4th-and-21 from the ASU 21.

The Toppers failed to score on the 4th-and-21, but an ASU roughing-the-passer call gave WKU new life with a first down at the 11 and under a minute to play.

On 1st-and-10 from the 11, Doughty threw an incompletion on first and second down, but ASU was flagged for pass interference on the failed second down play, moving WKU to 1st-and-goal from the 2.

Doughty's next pass was incomplete, before finally connecting with McNeal for the game-winning score.

"The only thing I kept thinking the whole time is ‘Okay, I need to use Antonio (Andrews)," Petrino said. "How do I get him the ball?'

"We decided to throw a screen to him. He made a great play on that. We gave him the ball on a draw, he made another great play. He got us in a position where we had an opportunity to win the game. You can't say enough about JB's (Jamarielle Brown) catch on the sideline. It certainly was a game of inches on that one. We just kept competing. It looked like we had won it earlier. We got a penalty and got backed up. Then we were fortunate they roughed the quarterback, got us back in a position. We just made the plays to win so it's a great way to win."

After a Keshawn Simpson 1-yard touchdown run tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter, WKU took to the vertical passing attack, with Doughty throwing touchdowns of 24 and 23 yards to McNeal and Norris, giving WKU a 20-7 lead with 14:52 left in the second quarter.

ASU and WKU traded possessions before the Red Wolves drove 85 yards on 15 plays, a drive where their starting quarterback and backup quarterback were both injured.

The backup, Freddi Knighten, eventually returned on the drive, scoring a touchdown from 1-yard out and closing the Topper lead to 20-14.

Regaining possession at the WKU 21 with 2:46 left in the second quarter, WKU drove quickly to ASU's 11-yard line with over 50 seconds still remaining in the quarter.

But a Willie Mcneal fumble on a catch at the 2-yard line ended the Tops scoring hopes to close out the first half.

WKU started the second half with a fumble on the opening kickoff, giving ASU the ball with great field position at the Topper 34.

The Red Wolves drove 34 yards in 6 plays, scoring a touchdown on a Knighten 8-yard rush to take a 21-20 lead.

After a 45-yard ASU field goal put them ahead 24-20, WKU drove 8 plays in 69 yards, pounding the ball on the ground with Simpson and Andrews, ending with a 2-yard Andrews touchdown run and giving the Toppers a 27-24 lead.

An Andrews' fumble early in the 4th quarter gave the Red Wolves' the ball at the WKU 22, and they took advantage with a quick touchdown to take the 31-27 lead with 9:27 to play.

14,417 attended WKU's home season finale, making their season average 18,334, a new school record.

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