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WKU wins C-USA title

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Brandon Doughty threw for 410 yards with three touchdown passes and Western Kentucky came from behind to defeat Southern Mississippi 45-28 in the Conference USA Championship Game on Saturday.

Doughty finished with 34 completions in 52 attempts, shaking off a first-half interception that helped put the East Division champion Hilltoppers in a 14-point first-half hole.

The Hilltoppers (11-2, 8-0) trailed 21-7 at the 9:46 mark of the first half and 28-21 early in the third quarter before scoring 24 unanswered points to put the game away and claim their first C-USA championship.

Taywan Taylor had eight catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns for WKU.

Nick Mullins was 15 of 30 for 181 yards with a touchdown for Southern Miss, but threw three costly interceptions.

Western Kentucky scored on its first possession of the game on Doughty’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Grant, but the Golden Eagles (9-4, 7-1) scored 21 straight points to take a two-score lead in the second quarter.

Southern Miss benefited from two short Western Kentucky punts, getting the football at the WKU 45 and going five plays for a score with Jalen Richard capping the drive from two yards away to tie the game.

On the next series, Southern Miss took over at the Hilltopper 32 and scored six plays later on Michael Thomas’ 5-yard touchdown reception from Mullens.

The Golden Eagles built on their lead when Kalan Reed intercepted Doughty’s pass and returned it 40 yards for a score.

But the Hilltoppers scored two touchdowns in the final 2:52 of the first half to tie the game. Western Kentucky first went 75 yards in 19 plays, with Doughty scoring on a 3-yard scramble to cut into the Southern Miss lead.

Then, with 1:11 to go, the Hilltoppers took possession at their own 3. Doughty marched Western Kentucky downfield, getting the tying touchdown on a 2-yard pass to Taylor with 11 seconds in the half.

Southern Mississippi regained the lead on its first possession of the second half. Ito Smith broke through the line and raced 37 yards to put the Eagles up 28-21.

Western Kentucky answered with Glenn Schwettman’s 37-yard field goal to cut the lead to 28-24.

On the ensuing possession, Hilltoppers cornerback Wonderful Terry picked off Mullins’ pass and returned it to his own 33. From there, WKU took the lead, going 67 yards in five plays with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Doughty to Taylor, putting Western Kentucky ahead for good with 1:19 to play in the third.

The Hilltoppers continued to pad the lead as Doughty hit Taylor on a 54-yard pass that set up Andre Ferby’s 2-yard touchdown to push the lead to 38-28. Ferby then capped another touchdown drive with 5:01 to play to ice the game.