BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) Brandon Doughty threw for 441 yards, redshirt freshman D'Andre Ferby relieved an injured Leon Allen to add a short touchdown among several key runs to help Western Kentucky survive Louisiana Tech 41-38 for an important - yet costly - Conference USA victory Thursday night.
The Hilltoppers lost Allen, who rushed for 1,542 yards last season, to an apparent left leg injury early in the third quarter when he was tackled on an incomplete pass play. The senior was taken to a hospital for observation but no further information was immediately available.
After a brief lull, the Hilltoppers (2-0, 1-0) regrouped behind Doughty and Ferby, who rushed four times for 13 yards on a drive ending with a 1-yard TD run and two-point conversion catch for a 38-24 lead with 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
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The Bulldogs scored twice (1-1, 0-1) late in the fourth but ran out of time.
Doughty bounced back from a 209-yard effort at Vanderbilt to complete 28 of 38 passes with a 37-yard touchdown and win the statistical battle with Bulldogs counterpart and Florida transfer Jeff Driskel, who was 28 of 48 for 357 yards and two TDs.
Ferby also rushed 14 times for 39 yards to provide the emotional lift the Hilltoppers needed in this early matchup of C-USA divisional favorites.
Western Kentucky had a score to settle with Louisiana Tech after last November's 59-10 road beatdown that marked the Hilltoppers' last loss. They've won seven straight - including last week's upset of Southeastern Conference member Vanderbilt and are 2-0 for the first time in 10 years.
But in staking an early claim as C-USA's top team, Western Kentucky now must deal with the possible absence of their top rusher, who had 81 yards rushing and a 28-yard TD run on 12 carries before his gruesome injury. More importantly, Allen and Doughty got the `Toppers started toward edging the Bulldogs in yardage, 590-580, in the shootout many expected.
Doughty hit Taywan Taylor in stride for a 37-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive en route to completing his first 10 attempts for 133 yards. Doughty nearly had another score on the next drive, but tight end Tyler Higbee fumbled at the 1 and Louisiana Tech recovered in the end zone for the touchback.
Allen made up for the missed opportunity by breaking through a big hole on the right side for a score and a 14-0 lead. Jonathan Barnes' 37-yard field goal put Louisiana Tech on the board, but Hilltoppers return man Kylen Towner answered with a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown that provided a buffer after Driskel's 13-yard scoring pass to Trent Taylor.
Despite trailing throughout, Louisiana Tech didn't wilt and got to 27-24 in the third quarter on Kenneth Dixon's 1-yard run. Doughty simply found receivers and got help from Ferby and others to stay ahead.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org