BOWLING GREEN, KY---Behind 323 all-purpose yards from runningback Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky (7-5 overall, 4-4 Sun Belt) scored 15 4th quarter points in a comeback 25-24 victory over North Texas (4-8 overall, 3-5 Sun Belt).
The 4th quarter charge began when safety Jonathan Dowling returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown with 12:44 to play, closing the gap at 24-16 for WKU after a botched snap on the extra point attempt.
"Everybody did everything they were supposed to do on that play," Dowling said. "If Rammell (Lewis) wouldn't have made the quarterback pull up and throw it I probably wouldn't have gotten a chance to get there.
"Everybody was just in the right place at the right time."
A holding penalty on Sean Conway cancelled a WKU passing touchdown with 8:07 left in the 4th quarter, but kicker Garrett Schwettman cut the lead to 24-19 after a 27-yard field goal at the 7:10 mark.
After another defensive stop and the Toppers trailing 24-19 with 4:57 to play, Andrews took a handoff for 53 yards all the way to the North Texas 25-yard line.
Two plays later, on a 2nd-and-6 from the UNT 21-yard line, Andrews spun away from multiple tacklers on a run to the outside, scoring on a 21-yard touchdown run to put WKU ahead 25-24 after a failed 2-point conversion.
North Texas regained possession with 3:21 to play, but the WKU defense stopped them on a 4th-and-three from the UNT 35, sealing the win for the Hilltoppers.
"I think it just really hit us that we control our own destiny," Andrews said. "These boys knew we had a bowl opportunity, so we came out and got it done.
"We didn't want to leave it in nobody's hands but ourselves."
North Texas scored 0 points from their four 4th quarter possessions, a big boost to the Hilltoppers defense after struggling in crunch time in last week's loss to Louisiana.
Andrews moved to 3rd all-time on the NCAA single season all-purpose yards list, passing several NFL notables on the list, including Chris Johnson, Darren Sproles and Jeremy Maclin.
Sproles currently holds the NFL's single-season record for all-purpose yards, set in 2011.
Jakes ties career mark
The Hilltoppers scored first to take a 7-0 lead via a 4-yard touchdown pass from Jakes to tight end Jack Doyle with 5:03 left in the 1st quarter.
North Texas quickly answered after a 61-yard touchdown run from runningback Brandin Byrd tied the game at 7-7 with 3:37 to play in the 1st.
A 20-yard Jeremy Brown touchdown run and Zach Olen 22-yard field goal put North Texas ahead 17-7 with 7:09 remaining in the first half.
WKU ended the 17-0 North Texas run with a field goal of their own, a 39-yard kick from Schwettman, closing the gap at 17-10 at halftime.
A myriad of Hilltopper 3rd quarter mistakes, including multiple personal foul penalties and a lost fumble by Andrews, helped North Texas to a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Thompson to Darnell Smith.
The touchdown put the Mean Green ahead 24-10 with 24 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
"Throughout that third quarter when we were moving the ball, then we'd make a mistake, then defense would get a stop and get it back, offense didn't do anything," Taggart said. "Just kept going down there and told those guys, 'You just gotta keep believing. Just keep believing, just keep believing and we're gonna win this ballgame.'"
Quarterback Kawaun Jakes finished 14-for-29 passing for 173 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Jakes one touchdown accounted for No. 50 in his career, tying the WKU school record with Justin Haddix.
North Texas won time of possession 36:17 to 23:32 for WKU, a stat usually dominated by Western Kentucky.
After finishing 7-5 overall in 2011 and narrowly missing a bowl invitation, WKU hopes this time around, things are different.
"We felt like we had enough last year," Taggart said. "We just felt like they didn't know who WKU was last year, but I think people know who we are now and I think we'll be OK.
"We better be."
Will WKU earn a bowl invitation this year? Follow the scores around the country HERE.