With 40-odd bowl games to sit through, you have to appreciate Western Kentucky’s efforts to spice up a game between the AAC West’s fourth-best team and the Conference USA champions.
The Hilltoppers unsurprisingly dominated Memphis 51-31 in the Boca Raton Bowl Tuesday, bumping their season record to 11-3. Head coach Jeff Brohm, who led the team all season, wasn’t on the sidelines, as he left his post early to start his new job at Purdue (not that you’ll hear Mark Richt complaining about that.) Defensive coordinator Nick Holt was thrust into the interim position for the season finale, and by God, the man let his offense cook.
The initial sign that Holt’s offense was going to get weird came with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. With the Hilltoppers trailing 10-7, quarterback Mike White faked the fake-jet-sweep handoff, spinning around to find a wide-open tackle Forrest Lamp on a screen pass. The senior, led by a convoy of his fellow linemen, walked in for a nine-yard score to give Western Kentucky a 14-10 lead.
Holt and Co. went back to the bag in the second quarter. Up 28-17 with 45 seconds left until the break and the ball on their own 15-yard line, the Hilltoppers lined up to take a knee and send the game to halftime. Memphis, still wary from getting played earlier, took off after White when he took the handoff and sprinted out the right, looking to run the option. The Tigers took the bait; by the time Memphis defenders turned around, star running back Anthony Wales, who had lined up crouched next to White and secretly received the ball, was on his way to to a 53-yard gain.
Despite Holt’s innovative play calling, Brohm’s permanent replacement will come by way of Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, who had plenty of time to take note of last night’s game thanks to the Fighting Irish’s 4-8 record.