In a game full of scoring and wild momentum swings, an apparent missed call late in the fourth quarter could be what sticks in the minds of WKU fans tonight.
An offsides penalty means a free play for the offense, so smart quarterbacks usually throw to the endzone without consequence--which is what Doughty did, targeting sophomore Taywan Taylor in the endzone. Convert the pass, you can decline the penalty and take the score. Throw an incompletion or even interception, you can accept the penalty and retain possession.
Only there was no flag to be found. UAB took over with 4:03 left to play, and milked the clock to end the game.
"I couldn’t tell for sure where I was at," said WKU head coach Jeff Brohm, on if the call was missed. "Our offense said they did (jump offsides,) I don’t know.
"We were gonna try to draw them offsides, if they didn’t, we were gonna call a timeout. But when they do jump, our offense is – we work on snapping the ball and taking a free play. Didn’t work for us.”
Following his coach's lead, sophomore running back Anthony "Ace" Wales also took the high road when asked about the call.
"In the position I was in, it kind of looked like he came over," Wales said. "But that’s what they (refs) are paid to do and they didn’t see it, so we got to live with the next play."
In all 3 of their 2014 losses, the Toppers led by double-digits at one point in the contest. Tonight, WKU led 27-14 at halftime after a dominating first half.
UAB's JJ Nelson returned the game's opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, but the Tops quickly responded with 2 touchdowns--a 15-yard pass from Doughty to Taylor at the 11:10 first quarter marker, followed by a 2-yard touchdown run by Wales at the 06:50 mark.
The Blazers answered with a 13-play scoring drive, punctuated by a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Clements to senior tight end Kennard Backman, knotting the game at 14-14.
But Wales took the next drive's opening play 75 yards for a rushing touchdown, then added another 21-yard rushing score in the second quarter, creating the eventual 27-14 halftime lead.
WKU would go three-and-out on their first three drives in the second half though, including a missed fourth down conversion in their own territory, and their lead quickly evaporated.
UAB scored three straight touchdowns on drives of 60, 34 and 75 yards, taking a 35-27 lead with 5:52 left in the 3rd quarter.
"We were just making adjustments like crazy," said UAB head coach Bill Clark, on his halftime message to his team. "They were saying all the right things.
"I bet we sat in the defensive room for 13 of the 20 minutes of the break. We just come out there and make those adjustments. And they handled it and took it in, and we do a lot of different things and I think that’s what helps us."
Suddenly finding renewed success, WKU marched 75 yards in 8 plays, finishing the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Doughty to junior receiver Antwane Grant, tightening the UAB lead to 35-33.
The Blazers looked to answer the very next drive, gaining 51 yards in just 7 plays to get deep in WKU territory.
But facing a third-and-6 at the WKU 22, Clements threw an interception to Ricardo Singh, who returned the pick 85 yards for a touchdown, and a 39-35 lead after WKU missed the two-point conversion.
UAB scored a touchdown on their next drive to retake a 42-39 lead, and WKU struggled to move the ball on the following possession, punting to the UAB 17 with 11:19 to play.
Following their bend not break mentality though, WKU allowed UAB to drive 75 yards in 10 plays, but forced a fumble on a first-and-goal at their own 8-yard line.
WKU returned the fumble back to their own 45-yard line, with 5:44 to play before the fateful "no offsides" ending drive.
"Obviously it’s very disappointing loss," Brohm said. "Played well in the first half and in the second half, bottom line is we got beat. The other team played better, found a way to make plays, we did not.
“We’ve had a lot of close games, this one was just like it, but it’s a disappointing loss because I felt like we should’ve and needed to win the game – and we didn’t.
“It’s on all of us. It’s a team loss and we’ll move on from it and try to learn from it and go from there.”
Doughty finished 25-for-37 passing for 319 yards and two touchdowns, while Clements was a slightly crisper 22-for-25 for 300 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
Wales led WKU with 138 yards rushing on 14 carries, adding three touchdowns.
WKU will travel to Florida Atlantic next week, with kickoff scheduled for 11:00 a.m.