Nassau, Bahamas (SportsNetwork.com) - Brandon Doughty threw for 486 yards and five first-half touchdowns as Western Kentucky rolled out to a huge lead then shook off a shocking final series of plays to a 49-48 victory over Central Michigan in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl.
Doughty completed 31 of his 42 tries for the Hilltoppers (8-5), with Anthony Wales and Leon Allen adding a rushing score apiece.
Willie McNeal led his club with 155 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, while Jared Dangerfield, Mitchell Henry, Antwane Grant and Joel German each contributed a TD grab for Western Kentucky, which was outscored 34-0 in the final quarter.
Cooper Rush tossed seven TDs -- four of them to Titus Davis, including an improbable score with no time left -- and 493 yards on 28-of-45 attempts for the Chippewas (7-6).
Davis ended up with six catches for a game-high 142 yards, Courtney Williams recorded touchdowns on two of his three receptions and Anthony Garland added a scoring grab. Martez Walker totaled 68 yards on nine carries.
Western Kentucky failed to move the ball beyond its opponents' 41-yard line with seconds to go, and the subsequent punt pinned Central Michigan at its own 20. An illegal procedure penalty pushed the ball up five yards before bedlam ensued.
Rush let a pass fly from his own 25. Jesse Kroll made the initial catch, and rumbled to the WKU 30 before losing control. Deon Butler advanced the ball two more yards, then lateraled to Williams for eight more. Davis finally received the ball at the 20 and managed to outrace several tacklers before diving for the right pylon to pull CMU within 49-48.
However, the two-point conversion pass to Kroll in the back-right corner of the end zone fell incomplete and the Hilltoppers could breathe a massive sigh of relief.
"It's the Nassau City Miracle, almost," Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said. "Our team is never going to quit while I'm the head football coach. We've got blue collar guys. They work. They've got great character. Football mirrors life. There's adversity. There's ups and downs. You get your butt kicked and you got to bounce back. That's what these guys did. They battled back."
Enos said at first his team was going to just kick the extra point and force overtime.
"We sent the PAT field goal team out and then somebody said something about going for two and it clicked," Enos said. "I went 'Whoa. Good.' And then I looked at the players and said 'what do you got?' And they said 'Let's do it. Let's win the game.' We had Courtney Williams on one side and Jesse Kroll on the other side, and we've got little read routes that we run. Both of those guys are great fade runners and slant runners. Cooper had thrown seven touchdown passes already so he was pretty hot. We didn't want to go overtime because we had trouble stopping them all day. Titus was hurt too. We just thought we had momentum and we were going to try and win the game."
A spirited opening quarter saw Western Kentucky emerge with a 21-7 edge thanks to TD passes from Doughty to Dangerfield, German and Grant around a 22-yard connection from Rush to Davis.
Doughty found Henry for 16 yards and WKU led 28-7 early in the second, but CMU responded on a 30-yard strike from Rush to Williams. A fifth touchdown pass from Doughty went to McNeal for 55 yards and a 35-14 game inside of two minutes left in the first half.
Allen capped the opening 30 minutes on a one-yard run to make it 42-14.
Anthony Wales burst through for a 21-yard rushing score and Western Kentucky was up by 35 in the early stages of the third quarter.
"I thought we kind of got a little conservative and got relaxed on offense in the second half," Doughty admitted. "They did a really good job of hitting our run game up, and it was just one of those grind-out halves. And we've got to fix that going into the future because we let a few go earlier in the season doing that. I'm just excited that we got the win."
Central Michigan began its comeback when Davis posted his second touchdown of the contest roughly 3 1/2 minutes into the fourth -- a 12-yard strike from Rush -- then his 23-yard TD catch-and-run pulled the Chippewas to 49-28 with 8:03 to play.
Williams capped a 64-yard series on the seventh play by hauling in a 10-yard pass with 3:04 to play and CMU pulled within two scores.
The Chippewas defense then held Western Kentucky to a three-and-out, and a fair catch from Davis on a short punt set them up on their own 45. Four plays later, Rush and Garland combined for a 7-yard strike to make it a seven-point contest.
Wednesday's contest was the first FBS postseason game played outside of the US and Canada since the 1937 Bacardi Bowl in Havana ... The schools combined for 1,254 yards of total offense, 647 by Western Kentucky ... Wales picked up 95 yards on 14 carries ... Kroll totaled 107 yards on four catches.