Two straight years, two Miami Beach Bowls proved to be straight up entertaining. Western Kentucky outlasted USF 45-35 on Monday in a game that was slow to get rolling but ended with the teams combining for 56 points in the second half. Thankfully, this year's version didn't end in an all-out brawl.
Here is a look at how it all went down.
What the win means for Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers closed the most successful season in school history with another epic performance from quarterback Brandon Doughty in his final game. Doughty was off early in the game, but he quickly got into a rhythm and ended up throwing for 461 yards and three touchdown passes to set a school single-season record with 50 touchdown passes. Doughty also went over 5,000 yards passing for the season and set a new FBS record for two-year touchdown total with 97. Anthony Wales went over 100 yards rushing, and two receivers went over 100 yards, too. Nicholas Norris had two touchdown catches during a crucial third quarter that helped the Hilltoppers erase a 14-10 halftime deficit. Western Kentucky last won 12 games in 1973, when it was not even an FBS program. Jeff Brohm moves to 20-7 as head coach in two seasons.
What the loss means for USF: There was no quit in Willie Taggart's group, not after losing an early 14-0 lead, not after trailing 38-21 at the end of the third quarter. The loss might sting but it is important to keep this season in perspective, one that started 1-3 and with many wondering whether Taggart would be back. After closing the season 7-1 and making the school's first bowl game since 2010, Taggart was rewarded with a contract extension and seems to have USF headed in the right direction. Quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack each went over 100 yards rushing, but the Bulls simply couldn't keep up with the tempo passing game from Western Kentucky.
Top play: One play after USF failed to convert on fourth-and-short in the third quarter, Doughty stepped back and passed into a crowd of players in the end zone. Jared Dangerfield came up with the catch, then got flipped by two defenders and somehow held on to the ball. This one was Top 10 worthy indeed.
How the game was won: USF's Eric Lee intercepted Doughty in the fourth quarter with the Bulls trailing 38-35. After their drive stalled, Emilio Nadelman lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt. But he missed with 6:04 to play. Wales then scored the game-sealing touchdown, running in from 42 yards out to put the game out of reach.
Uh, what? It is rare indeed when teams must punt on fourth-and-goal. But that is what happened late in the second quarter to the Hilltoppers. After facing first-and-goal from the 6, Western Kentucky took a personal foul penalty. Then Doughty was sacked on back-to-back plays, and Western Kentucky punted on fourth-and-goal from the USF 38.