BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) Brandon Doughty put up the gaudy numbers necessary to get the signature Conference USA victory that he and Western Kentucky needed over Louisiana Tech.
The only concern for him and the Hilltoppers after their wild 41-38 win Thursday night was the condition of teammate Leon Allen following a gruesome left leg injury that had them stunned before they regrouped to earn their seventh straight victory.
Allen was injured early in the third quarter as he was tackled cleanly by Louisiana Tech linebacker Nick Thomason on an incomplete pass. But as he went down with Thomason's arms wrapped around his left leg, it bent backward at an awkward angle.
Houchens-Smith Stadium was silent as medical personnel tended to Smith as he lay on the turf. He eventually rose to limp off the field to cheers before heading to the locker room. He left the stadium for observation at a hospital before the end of the game.
Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm didn't know Allen's status immediately afterward but said, ''I'm not very optimistic. It's unfortunate. You can ask anyone within our program, he's our most valuable player on offense. ... Without him it's going to be a challenge.''
Initially numbed by the sudden loss of a star player who rushed for 1,542 yards and 13 touchdowns, Doughty and other Hilltoppers chipped in to lead an emotional comeback that kept the stubborn Bulldogs at bay.
''Unfortunately, we came up on the losing side, but I'm proud of our football team,'' Bulldogs coach Skip Holtz said. ''They never gave up when it had adversity, and they continued to compete.''
Doughty threw for 441 yards and a touchdown and redshirt freshman D'Andre Ferby relieved Allen to add a short touchdown among several key runs to help Western Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 C-USA) earn an important, yet costly, league win. Ferby rushed four times for 13 yards on a critical third-quarter drive which ended with a 1-yard TD run and two-point conversion catch for a 38-24 lead with 54 seconds left.
''I think Ferby is more than capable and he's ready to step in if we need him,'' Doughty said. ''Leon is definitely in my prayers and I hope everything is OK. But if he's out, we'll have to lean on Ferby and Anthony Davis. ... There shouldn't be a dropoff at all.''
The Bulldogs scored twice (1-1, 0-1) late in the fourth but ran out of time.
Doughty bounced back from a 209-yard effort at Vanderbilt to complete 28 of 38 passes with a 37-yard touchdown and win the statistical battle with Bulldogs counterpart and Florida transfer Jeff Driskel, who was 28 of 48 for 357 yards and two TDs.
Allen had 81 yards rushing and a 28-yard TD run on 12 carries before his gruesome injury. More importantly, Allen and Doughty got the `Toppers started toward edging the Bulldogs in yardage, 590-580, in the shootout many expected.
Despite trailing throughout, Louisiana Tech didn't wilt and got to 27-24 in the third quarter on Kenneth Dixon's 1-yard run. Doughty simply found receivers and got help from Ferby and others to stay ahead.
''That's a huge win for us,'' Brohm said. ''They totally kicked our tails last year, and for our guys to work hard, take the field with confidence and fight back and forth to win is a true testament to our players.''
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org