Football analysts and sages frequently allude to the maxim: “You are what your record says you are.”
Okay, but the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, who face the Central Michigan Chippewas Wednesday (noon) in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, sure seem a lot scarier than 7-5. Just ask a few opposing coaches, like maybe Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Doc Rivers.
The Herd had pretty much trampled nearly all comers while reeling off 11 straight wins this season. Western Kentucky came to Huntington for the season finale, and it left with a wild 67-66 overtime victory over hosting Marshall. Winning in Huntington isn’t easy anytime, let along against an undefeated team led by Rakeem Cato.
Of course, a scary movie is often a thrilling movie, so let’s take a look at why Western Kentucky is both. With nearly a month to get healthy and prepare, Central Michigan (also 7-5 and with some scary skills) hopes it can give Chippewa nation a happy ending.
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Western Kentucky rolled up 708 yards of total offense with 40 first downs. Most of the damage came off the arm of senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who threw for 569 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
► Western Kentucky ranks third in the country in passing yards (365 ypg) and is sixth in scoring 44.o ppg).
► Doughty leads the nation in passing yards (4,344) and touchdowns (44). The senior, who was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility due to earlier injuries, twice broke the school’s single-season passing record, as well as the Conference USA single game mark (8 TDs) and the school’s career touchdown record in just two seasons.
► Doughty’s performance in bringing down Marshall was nothing short of spectacular. He threw for 516 yards and eight touchdowns. But it was his two-yard, two-point conversion pass to Willie McNeal that sealed the verdict. An incompletion, interception or sack would have given Marshall the win.
► Suffice it to say the Hilltoppers’ receiving corps has been living in a land of plenty. Jared Dangerfield owns a team-high 64 receptions and 10 touchdown catches. Taywan Taylor leads the team in receiving yards (739) and average per catches (16.8 ypc). He is one of two Hilltopper receivers with seven TDs.
► Junior running back Leon Allen, (6-1, 235) is a dual threat who gives the Hilltoppers another high-end weapon. He has 1,490 yards and 12 touchdowns on 259 carries (5.8 ypc) rushing the ball. He also is well up on the list of receptions, ranking fourth on the team with 46 catches for 431 yards and three more touchdowns.
► Garrett Schwettman has gotten a workout this year. He’s made 65-of-64 PAT kicks and 16-of-20 field goal attempts. He has a long of 42 this year and was good on 2-of-3 from 40-plus, 7-of-9 from 30-39, and 6-of-7 in the 20-29-yard range.