BOZICH | Vanderbilt stuns Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, media, Weste - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Vanderbilt stuns Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, media, Western Kentucky football team

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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin wasn't the only one who thought Western Kentucky had Vanderbilt beaten. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin wasn't the only one who thought Western Kentucky had Vanderbilt beaten.

BOWLING GREEN,  Ky. (WDRB) — The Western Kentucky football team and coaching staff are the first ones who have some explaining to do about how the Hilltoppers came from ahead to lose to Vanderbilt, 31-30, in overtime Saturday.

But coach Jeff Brohm and his players do not stand alone.

At the head of the line is Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. Somebody took control of Bevin's Twitter account and tapped out congratulations on a "solid win." Sorry. Tweets can be deleted. Screen shots live forever.

Next in line: The WKU media relations staff sent a post-game e-mail with this note listed as the second item:

  • WKU has defeated Vanderbilt in back-to-back years, as the teams have played for the first two times since 1938. The Commodores lead the all-time series 3-2.

Oops. Who am I to judge?

I worked on a running game story that I intended to archive after the game and then finish after collecting post-game quotes. Oops. I inadvertently posted the story for several minutes before filing a corrected version that the Hilltoppers had indeed lost.

It was that kind of day at Smith-Houchens Stadium. Hot. Exhausting. And ultimately jarring for the Hilltoppers who led 14-0 early and 24-17 with 62 seconds o play.

Here is the list of reasons Western Kentucky lost:

Fumble. Fumble. Interception. Missed field goal attempt. Interception on a two-point conversion on the final play of the game.

I'll be conservative and estimate that coach Jeff Brohm's team left 17 points on the turf.

So Western Kentucky came from 14 points ahead and lost. There were 23,674 witnesses, a school record who watched Vandy score first in overtime. WKU quickly rallied with a touchdown. But rather than risk another overtime, Brohm decided to play for the win.

Brohm did the same thing two season ago at Marshall. It worked. Millions of words of praise were written about his daring.

After playing stifling defense for most of the first 59 minutes, the Hilltoppers looked low on Gatorade in the final 62 seconds, letting Vandy march for a game-tying touchdown. When Vandy scored again in overtime, Brohm was convinced his defense was gas, gas, gassed.

This time White searched for halfback Ace Wales in the end zone. He saw him briefly open. The ball was tipped. It bounced high off Wales' chest into the arms of a Vandy defender. Interception. Wales took the blame, saying that although the ball came in "hot," he should have made the catch.

No. This was a team defeat.

The Hilltoppers could not overcome the turnovers.

They almost did it be because the Hilltoppers played stout defense, stealing one pass and delivering a dozen tackles for a loss. But the defense weakened at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime, allowing touchdowns.

They almost survived because Wales showed that he can shake and accelerate away from Southeastern Conference defenders. Credit him with a pair of scores and 157 yards. 

Make WKU 2-2 with Houston Baptist booked for Bowling Green next weekend. Make this an afternoon that WKU coaches, players and fans will fuss about for years.

At halftime it looked as if the scouting report had shifted for Jeff Brohm's Western Kentucky football team.

The one that says the Hilltoppers must score like crazy to beat you. The one that says defense is an elective at WKU, which gave up 28 or more points nine times last season.

The Hilltoppers aren't scoring the way they scored when Brandon Doughty was playing quarterback, but neither is the other team. On Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium, WKU out-gained Vanderbilt 248-84 while surging to a 14-7 halftime lead.

Credit Nick Holt's defense with one interception, three sacks and eight tackles for loss in only the first 30 minutes.

The Hilltoppers scored on their opening drive (marching 75 yards) and fifth possessions. Vanderbilt did not score until the Commodores' fifth possession with less than three minutes to play in the half.

Credit one touchdown to Ace Wales, the former Central High star, on 4-yard run. Credit the other to receiver Nacarius Fant, who roared into the end zone on a 61-yard pass from back-up quarterback Tyler Ferguson. Wales added another touchdown, from 20 yards, early in the fourth quarter.

Two fumbles -- one by Quinton Baker, the second by Nicholas Norris -- stopped the Hilltoppers from increasing their advantage. Both fumbles came on Vanderbilt's side of the field, the first at the 42, the second at the 5.

Before the game, these were the primary questions that danced around the tailgating spots at Western Kentucky:

Can the Hilltoppers achieve something the University of Kentucky has not achieved since 2010 — beat Vanderbilt in back-to-back seasons?

Will the Hilltoppers fill 22,113 seats at Houchens-Smith Stadium with the presence of an SEC football team in Bowling Green for the first time?

Two hours before kickoff WKU athletic director Todd Stewart was optimistic a record crowd of nearly 23,000 would watch the game. Most of the seats -- and both end zones -- were filled at kickoff. Stewart was correct. WKU eclipsed the previous record (23,352) that was set four seasons ago.

“This atmosphere here today is just tremendous,” said legendary Kentucky high school coach Joe Jaggers. A Western alum, Jaggers said he called several former classmates and said, “We’re a football school now. Can you believe it?”

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