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Munson’s Kick Lifts WKU to 23-20 First Responder Bowl Win

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WKU’s freshman kicker was the hero as the Tops edged WMU

NCAA Football: First Responder Bowl-Western Kentucky vs Western Michigan Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

The night before the 2019 Servpro First Responder Bowl, Cory Munson was asked on Instagram what was one of his personal goals.

“I said it was to kick a game-winning field goal in college,” Munson said.

The next day, Munson achieved his goal as he nailed a 52-yard field goal to lift the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers past the Western Michigan Broncos 23-20.

With three seconds left on the clock, WKU called its final time out at the Bronco 39-yard line. Quarterback Ty Storey heaved a prayer to the end zone which was batted to the turf by Harrison Taylor. The game was headed to overtime.

NCAA Football: First Responder Bowl-Western Kentucky vs Western Michigan Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

However, the officials reviewed the play. After a long delay, they ruled that WMU had 12 men on the field for the final play. The Broncos were assessed a five yard penalty, and WKU was given an untimed down.

With the wind at his back, Munson came out and took full advantage before he was mobbed in celebration by his teammates.

The game started slow, with the only points of the first quarter being a Bronco field goal that followed Storey’s first interception. WKU responded with a touchdown and a field goal of its own in the second quarter to take a 10-3 lead.

The Hilltoppers looked to be ready to extend their lead just before halftime, but a tipped pass fell right to Bronco cornerback Kareem Ali who returned it 85 yards for a game-tying pick six. WKU had another opportunity to score on the first half’s final play, but Munson missed a 29-yard field goal to keep the score tied at the break.

The teams traded scores in the second half. Munson tied the game at 20-20 with 1:36 to play in the fourth quarter with a 31-yard field goal.

NCAA Football: First Responder Bowl-Western Kentucky vs Western Michigan Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

On WMU’s resulting drive, quarterback Jon Wassink connected with DaShon Bussell who made an impressive diving catch to bring the Broncos to the Hilltopper 37-yard line. On third and one, Wassink kept the ball and had plenty of room to run for an easy first down, but he tripped and lost two yards.

The Broncos were then stopped on fourth down. WKU drove downfield and set up Munson for the game-winner.

WKU head coach Tyson Helton said he knew Munson would make it.

“Something inside of me told me when we got the penalty that he was going to go out there and knock it right down the pipe, and he did,” Helton said. “The kid didn’t bat an eye. He had a lot of confidence when he went out there. Just really proud of Cory and making that kick today.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 First Responder Bowl - Western Kentucky v Western Michigan
Lucky Jackson won First Responder Bowl MVP
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Lucky Jackson won game MVP in his final game for WKU. The senior wide receiver caught 17 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown.

Storey finished his collegiate career with a 358-yard passing day. He tossed two touchdowns with two interceptions.

The Hilltoppers finish the season 9-4, tripling their win total from last season. Jackson said he wasn’t surprised how the program responded after a disappointing 2018 campaign.

“I feel like last year kind of gave us the gasoline and the energy for this year,” Jackson said. “We knew we were a lot better than what our record showed, and so that just kind of fueled us for what we’re doing right now.”

WKU’s win gave Conference USA its third bowl victory of the bowl season, bringing the conference record to 3-4. Southern Miss represents the league’s final opportunity to win a trophy when the Golden Eagles face Tulane on January 4 in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.