Hilltoppers deny Southern Miss of title

Published 8:49 pm Saturday, December 5, 2015

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Brandon Doughty finished off his final home game for Western Kentucky with something he didn’t believe was possible when he came to the school in 2011 — a conference championship.

Doughty threw for 410 yards with three touchdown passes and Western Kentucky came from behind to defeat Southern Miss 45-28 in the Conference USA championship game Saturday.

“This is just the start of our program. Winning a conference championship, I would have never thought we would have done it five or six years ago. But we did it today and it’s just the start,” Doughty said.

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Doughty finished with 34 completions in 52 attempts, shaking off a first-half interception that helped put the East Division champion Hilltoppers in a 14-point first-half hole.

“I don’t think we were executing early in the game. We kind of got away from it and got caught up in the moment a little bit. We had to settle down a little bit, myself included,” Doughty said.

The Hilltoppers (11-2) trailed 21-7 at the 9:46 mark of the first half and 28-21 early in the third quarter before scoring 24 unanswered points to put the game away and claim their first C-USA championship. Western Kentucky joined the conference two years ago.

“This is what we were shooting for, the conference championship,” Hilltoppers coach Jeff Brohm said. “Last week (against Marshall) was big for us. We got the win and got to advance to the conference championship game. To me this was our Super Bowl.

“I feel great about what we’ve accomplished to this point, and our reward is to go to a bowl game and see if we can add to it.”

The Hilltoppers and USM will both find out Sunday what bowl invitation they will receive.

Taywan Taylor had eight catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns for WKU.

Nick Mullens was 15-of-30 for 181 yards and a touchdown for Southern Miss (9-4), but threw three costly interceptions.

Western Kentucky scored on its first possession of the game on Doughty’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Grant, but the Golden Eagles scored 21 straight points to take a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.

The Hilltoppers scored two touchdowns in the final 2:52 of the first half to tie it, and took the lead for good early in the second half.

Cornerback Wonderful Terry picked off Mullens’ pass and returned it to his own 33. From there, WKU took the lead with a 39-yard TD pass from Doughty to Taylor, putting WKU ahead 31-28 with 1:19 to play in the third.

The Hilltoppers continued to pad the lead as Doughty hit Taylor on a 54-yard pass that set up Andre Ferby’s 2-yard touchdown to push the lead to 38-28. Ferby then capped another touchdown drive with 5:01 to play to ice the game.

“We got worn out in the second half — our defense did,” Southern Miss coach Todd Monken said. “We weren’t able to move the football like we are capable of. We got out-coached. We got outplayed today. That’s the way it is. But, I am proud of our team. We’ve come a long way.”