WESTERN KENTUCKY knows its defensive blunders on what became the final touchdown of the Bahamas Bowl will stay on highlight reels for a long, long time.
That's fine with the Hilltoppers - because they found a way to hang on for an unforgettable win.
Wasting nearly every bit of a 35-point lead and giving up the most improbable of touchdowns on the final play from scrimmage, Western Kentucky overcame a recordsetting seven touchdown passes from Cooper Rush and beat Central Michigan, 49-48, on Wednesday in Nassau, the first bowl game played outside the U.S. or Canada since 1937.
"There's been a lot of twists and turns to all of our games," Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm said.
Not like this.
Central Michigan (7-6) scored the final five touchdowns of the game, including a three-lateral, 75-yard dazzler on the final play in which six Chippewas - one center, one quarterback and four receivers - touched the ball. Officially, it went down as a touchdown pass to Titus Davis by Rush, his seventh scoring toss of the day, one more than anyone had ever thrown in any bowl game.
Central Michigan went for a two-point conversion and the win, only to have it broken up by Western Kentucky's Wonderful Terry.
"I want to tell Central Michigan that's one heck of a job by them," Brohm said. "They showed the heart and spirit that this game is all about."
Here's how the miracle happened: The Chippewas got the ball on their own 25 with a second remaining after a punt, trailing, 49-42. Rush threw deep to Jesse Kroll, who caught the ball between three defenders at the 29. Kroll advanced the ball slightly before lateraling to Deon Butler, who got the ball to Courtney Williams just before getting tackled.
Williams then tossed the ball to Davis, who caught it at the 15 and outran three Western Kentucky players to the end zone, reaching to knock over the pylon as he fell out of bounds to complete the bizarre play.
Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said he originally planned to kick the extra point. He then changed his mind, a decision that's surely going to be debated.
"Cooper had thrown seven touchdown passes already in the game, so we figured he was pretty hot," Enos said. "We didn't want to go to overtime, because we had trouble stopping them all day. We thought we had momentum so we'd try to win the game."
When the conversion pass hit the ground, only then could the Hilltoppers exhale.
"It was a roller-coaster ride," said Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty, who threw five touchdowns pass to increase his nation-leading total to 49 on the season. "We were just lucky and blessed that we got the win."
The ending largely overshadowed a huge day by Doughty, who threw for 486 yards.
Doughty completed 31 of 42 passes for the Hilltoppers (8-5) and capped the sixth-highest single-season touchdown total in major college football history. Anthony Wales and Leon Allen added touchdown runs for the Hilltoppers.
Rush threw for 485 yards. He never had more than three touchdowns in a college game, and wound up being credited with five in the final 12 minutes for the Chippewas.
"We just kept grinding away, taking it one play at a time," Rush said. "From the huddle we just kept saying, 'One play at a time.' And next thing you know we look up and the score's getting closer and closer and that's when you know you've got a chance to win it."
The teams finished with 1,254 yards of offense, 647 by Western Kentucky. McNeal caught five passes for 155 yards for the Hilltoppers, who got 95 yards rushing from Wales.
* Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams says he's returning for his senior season. The junior led the Razorbacks (6-6) with 1,085 yards rushing this season, helping them rebound from a 3-9 record last year to reach their first bowl game in three seasons. Arkansas will face Texas in the Texas Bowl on Monday.
* South Carolina junior running back Mike Davis is leaving the Gamecocks for the NFL draft after the Independence Bowl, tomorrow against Miami. Davis ran for 1,183 yards last year. He has 927 yards so far this year and can join Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers as the only players in South Carolina history with multiple 1,000-yard seasons.
* Louisiana-Lafayette wide receiver Jamal Robinson received a fifth year of eligibility from the NCAA through a medical hardship waiver. He injured his meniscus against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 6, then injured his foot against Texas State that sidelined him for the rest of the season.
* Missouri Valley College offensive coordinator Aaron Christensen is the new coach at Montana State-Northern. He takes over for Mark Samson, who resigned in August. The Lights went 3-7 under interim coach Jake Eldridge, who was the defensive coordinator.