It was 4th-and-2 at the Central Michigan 19-yard line with :51 seconds remaining in the game. Sure, the Hilltoppers could have easily marched Garrett Schwettman onto Detroit's Ford Field for a game-tying field goal attempt. That was interim head coach Lance Guidry's plan anyway, until all of his players convinced him to roll the dice and go for the win.
WKU had been down this road before, choosing to go for the win back in September at Kentucky. That decision resulted in a program-defying victory that will forever be remembered in WKU football history as "Seminole."
The players wanted another program-defying moment on Wednesday night, they wanted their first bowl victory in the FBS era. It all came down to this, 4th-and-2.
The ball was snapped and Jakes dropped back surveying his options and he chose the best one in senior tight end Jack Doyle. The ball floated in the air for what seemed like an eternity as Doyle leaped towards the sidelines in a desperate attempt to make another defying moment in WKU football history…Doyle was able to get a hand on it, but the ball hit the Ford Field turf and the 4th-and-2 gamble didn't pay off.
Chippewa players and fans rejoiced as the clock ran out and Central Michigan received the Little Caesar's Bowl trophy with a 24-21 win.
The Chippewa's quarterback Ryan Radcliff found early success connecting with wide receiver Andrew Floyd on a couple of big touchdown strikes, a 69-yarder and a 29-yarder. That gave the Chips 14 easy points before the first quarter was over.
WKU's first offensive play of the game had some resemblance to a play we all saw at Kentucky, a toss to Antonio Andrews who faked the run, then lateraled back to Kawaun Jakes who found a wide-open Ricco Brown streaking down the middle of the field for 70-yard gainer. Two plays later, Kawaun Jakes scrambled into the endzone from six yards out.
Facing a 17-7 deficit early in the 2nd quarter, WKU put together a solid 6-play, 75 yard drive that featured a heavy dose of Antonio Andrews and was capped off when Jakes found Jack Doyle in the corner of the endzone for a nifty one-handed grab. WKU trailed at the half, 17-14.
The third quarter was all Hilltoppers, who orchestrated a patented 16-play, 80 yard drive that chewed up 9:23 of play clock. While the drive featured a lot of Andrews running, the highlight was a 22-yard reception by fullback Kadeem Jones that set the Hilltoppers up at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Jones was rewarded for his hard work with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. The Toppers had regained the lead, 21-17.
A critical mistake happened in the fourth quarter as WKU punter Hendrix Brakefield was attempting to punt in the back of Central Michigan's endzone. The mistake was a low snap, which took Brakefield precious time to corral and not even a second after Brakefield's cleat hit the football, the punt was blocked by the Chippewas who were sitting pretty at WKU's 26-yard line.
Three plays later, Chippewa quarterback Ryan Radcliff found Cody Wilson for an 11-yard touchdown pass and Central Michigan regained the lead for good at 24-21 with 5:11 remaining in the game.
Central Michigan's Ryan Radcliff was named MVP of the Little Caesar's Bowl, going 19 of 29 passing for 253 yards with three touchdowns.
Unfortunately, history was not made for Antonio Andrews who finished with 184 all-purpose yards, 90 yards short of Barry Sanders' single season all-purpose record.
The Hilltoppers finish the season 7-6 overall. The season is officially over and all I can say is…it's been a blast to cover!