CRAWFORD | WKU's Doughty rides big 'red carpet' to storybook end - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | WKU's Doughty rides big 'red carpet' to storybook ending in Miami Beach Bowl

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Brandon Doughty with Howard Schnellenberger and Jeff Brohm before the Miami Beach Bowl (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford). Brandon Doughty with Howard Schnellenberger and Jeff Brohm before the Miami Beach Bowl (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford).
Willie Taggart, who recruited Brandon Doughty to WKU as head coach, greets him after WKU's win in the Miami Beach Bowl. (AP photo) Willie Taggart, who recruited Brandon Doughty to WKU as head coach, greets him after WKU's win in the Miami Beach Bowl. (AP photo)

MIAMI, Fla. (WDRB) -- Who could have thought, when Willie Taggart offered Brandon Doughty a chance to play quarterback at Western Kentucky University, how it all would've turned out.

Who could have predicted -- when Doughty backed out of a commitment to Howard Schnellenberger and Florida Atlantic after quarterbacks coach Jeff Brohm left for Illinois -- this moment in Miami?

Here they were, all of them. During pregame warmups, at midfield, Schnellenberger shaking hands with Doughty, who might have been his quarterback. Brohm, the WKU coach, smiling with his mentor, Schnellenberger, and his star passer. In the opposing locker room, who else but Taggart would be preparing the South Florida team that would try to stop Doughty in the final game of his prolific college career?

Come on. Did you really think this script was going to end any other way than with Doughty on a podium holding up a trophy?

The plot had a lot of twists, but in the end was predictable. Doughty threw for 461 yards and three touchdowns, and WKU completed a 45-35 win to finish an historic 12-2 season.

"It was cool, man. It was special," said Doughty, a native of nearby Davie, Fla. "I've said it all week. I think God's kind of put out a red carpet and just said, 'Brandon, follow me.' It's been a great journey. I could write a book. But to win like this back at home, against a guy who gave me a chance -- a lot of people wouldn't give me a chance, a lot of colleges wouldn't take a chance on me coming out of high school -- he took a risk on me, and I thank him for it. But it was a good feeling."

Everything you need to know about the sixth-year signal-caller for WKU, you could see in this game. He was so amped up early that he missed on a couple of deep balls. He threw an interception on his first pass of the second quarter.

Then he got going. He completed his next 12 passes. He led four scoring drives in the third quarter. He picked South Florida apart.

And he led, as he has done all season. He led the Hilltoppers back from a 14-point deficit.

"Early on, I thought we had some good plays called, I was just kind of missing throws," Doughty said. "I had to settle down a little bit and sit in the pocket. Credit to them. They did a great job of disguising stuff and bringing some pressure, bringing some heat. But I thought when I settled down, our team settled down. We just needed to take a deep breath. It was one of those situations where we were too high early, myself included."

Doughty's three touchdowns give him 97 in the past two seasons. No quarterback in the history of FBS football has thrown for more. Colt Brennan, at Hawaii in 2006 and '07, threw for 96. He finished the season with 5,055 yards passing. In this game, he completed 23 of his final 27 passes. And one of those was a spike to stop the clock.

"It shows what type of quarterback he is," Brohm said. "He's been consistent all year, and when you put as much pressure on the passing game as we do, and on the quarterback, you're not going to be perfect all the time. But he's been perfect about as much as he could possibly do. . . . He played tough. We talk about it all the time. That's what the great quarterbacks do, and he's definitely a great quarterback. . . . He's got a bright future ahead of him. He deserves all the credit in the world for all he's been able to achieve. He came back and helped this team achieve probably the greatest moment in our football history."

Say this for WKU football -- it gives people their money's worth during bowl season. The two teams put up a combined 1,209 yards in a game that took four hours and three minutes to complete. The Hilltoppers couldn't quite put away South Florida and its talented sophomore quarterback, Quinton Flowers. He ran for 108 yards and passed for 273. But when they needed a couple of big plays late, WKU's defense, which was much improved this season, delivered.

"We gave up a ton of yards," senior linebacker Nick Holt Jr. said. "All of us had our ankles broken about three times each by their quarterback, but we made plays when we needed to, and stiffened up, and we played tough and towards the end we played smart and didn't get any dumb penalties and got off the field."

Added Brohm: "We definitely do try to play an exciting brand of football on offense. We take a lot of pride in it. We try to score a lot of points, do a lot of things. Our defense is vastly improved this year. We play hard. We've gotten better. Is everything perfect? No. But that's what makes it fun.

For WKU, which earned its first ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 earlier this month, it means an entire offseason basking in the glow of its history-making campaign -- and considering its future.

With Doughty hoping to be off to NFL opportunities, no shortage of transfer quarterbacks will be looking to come learn under Brohm. And the Hilltoppers return plenty of talent -- led likely by their head coach, who didn't take job interview offers during bowl preparation and looks as if he'll be back in Bowling Green for another season.

He understood the magnitude of what the win means for WKU, even as he knows the difficulty of following such success.

Before the game, Schnellenberger talked about Brohm's job at WKU, and the potential there.

"There is no reason," Schnellenberger said, "that Western Kentucky shouldn't have the same capacity to be great as the University of Louisville."

But Schnellenberger cautioned that it would be just as important to get fans, students, and the community to believe in and support the program as it is to get the players and coaches to buy in.

Brohm has done his job. He has delivered big-time success to Bowling Green, and a nationally ranked program.

Doughty has done his. He's hoping for a chance to show what he can do at the NFL level.

"I've been working my butt off for this," he said. "It's my dream. In the back yard when I was 5 years old I was Dan Marino, thinking, 'Man, I wish I could play in the NFL.' It's just a dream. To be a reality and be something that's very realistic, I'm just honored. I can't thank God enough for it."

Now we'll see if Hilltopper fever spreads. If the program can begin to sell out its stadium. And we'll see how Brohm can build on this success.

"It was a great way to finish," Brohm said.

And, just maybe, a great way to start.

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