We expected a shootout and that’s what we got. With a total score of 102, the Hilltoppers and the Bulldogs gave us the highest scoring conference championship game of any FBS conference ever.
Both offenses exploded to give us a 24-17 score at the end of the first quarter and a halftime score of 38-27. Tech never led in the first half but they did force four ties. All three first quarter touchdowns for WKU came from Anthony Wales, two rushing and one receiving. Taywan Taylor would catch two Mike White passes for touchdowns in the second quarter.
Tech’s offense only amassed 10 first quarter points, the touchdown being Carlos Henderson juking past four WKU defenders inside the 10 yard line. However, freshman Tech cornerback L’Jarius Sneed intercepted White and took it to the house for the pick six.
The start of the second half looked really good for Tech as busted coverage from WKU followed by a muffed kick off allowed Tech to take the lead, 41-38 in less than five minutes. However, they only got a field goal after that and WKU ran away with it. A Wales touchdown run and an interception by Branden Leston sealed the deal.
This was La Tech’s second appearance in the C-USA title game. Both games were played on the road, and both were played with players suspended for grades. Tech lost both.
This was also WKU’s second appearance, but this was two straight years and the first time a team had hosted the game in back-to-back years. WKU also becomes only the second team to win back-to-back C-USA Championship Games, the first being ECU in 08-09 (ironically coached by current La Tech head coach Skip Holtz).
Both teams had almost twice as many points as they did first downs. La Tech went over 500 total yards, WKU over 650. WKU was able to do pretty much whatever they wanted and totaled 421 passing yards and 235 rushing. Tech had 502 passing yards, but they had FIVE rushing yards.
WKU had fumbling issues last time they played, and it was a Mike White fumble that gave Tech the victory. They had two fumbles this time around, both on kick off returns, but that wasn’t enough for Tech this time.
At the end of the day, WKU was able to shut down the run game just like Southern Miss did last week. Once you force Tech to be one-dimensional, you have a chance. Tech still impressed through the air, but WKU’s defense was just better. Add to that the neutralization of the Jaylon Ferguson’s pass rush and there you have it.
For C-USA, the match up of the two best teams was in front of a national audience on ESPN, but it wasn’t the best look. Besides the lack of defense, both offenses dropped sure touchdowns. The officiating was horrendous, and the crowd wasn’t much better. 13,213 was the reported attendance.
WKU (10-3) will most likely be going to the Boca Raton Bowl on December 20, as that is their first choice and the C-USA champion gets to indicate which bowl they want. La Tech’s (8-5) destination is less clear. Their first choice is the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but they aren’t guaranteed it. ESPN’s contingency plan if both WMU and Navy won their conferences involved North Texas taking that spot. Since Navy lost, that contingency plan goes out the window, but that still leaves a little doubt about Tech’s ability to get there, especially with them not winning the conference. It’s also not clear who the opponent will be, as the B1G will probably leave their spot unclaimed. A G5 school could very well fill the open slot. In any case, we’ll know for sure tomorrow.
The WKU win today closes the all-time gap with La Tech. Tech leads the series 4-3, and the home team has still never lost.