A confusing and chaotic finish in the First Responder Bowl was capped off by a thrilling 52-yard field goal from freshman kicker Cory Munson to give Western Kentucky a 23-20 win against Western Michigan.
The fourth quarter was filled with gaffes and the inability from both teams to put the game away. First, with the score tied at 17 early in the fourth quarter, Western Michigan drove the ball down the field in 12 plays and took up more than five minutes of game clock only to be stopped at the 3-yard line and have to settle for a short field goal. Western Kentucky responded with another drive deep into enemy territory with several chances to take the lead with a touchdown, but could only to tie the game with a short field goal.
Then Western Michigan, receiving the ball with 96 seconds remaining, drove down to the Western Kentucky 28 before Jon Wassink, running with nothing but open space and a shot to either score a touchdown or reach field goal range, stumbled and fumbled, resulting in a loss of two yards. An incomplete pass on the ensuing play led to a loss of downs, and Western Kentucky then got its chance to win the seemingly unwinnable game.
Ty Storey hit a couple passes to Gaej Walker to get into WKU territory, but the Hilltoppers were left with a Hail Mary opportunity that was batted down in the end zone. The announcers figured the game was going to overtime tied 20-20, but there was chaos on the field.
As it turned out, WKU's coaches were arguing that WMU had 12 men on the field for the Hail Mary attempt. Officials reviewed the play and confirmed the infraction, giving WKU five yards and one additional untimed down for Munson to take a shot at winning the game. Munson had missed a short chip shot earlier in the game, but the freshman more than made up for it with this career-long 52-yard attempt.
The win gives Tyson Helton a victory in his first bowl appearance as head coach. Helton was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year after guiding the Hilltoppers to a 6-2 finish in league play and 9-4 finish overall that included a win against Arkansas.