Detroit--A back-and-forth affair came down to one final play.
Facing a 4th-and-2 trailing 24-21 at Central Michigan's 19-yard line, WKU head coach Lance Guidry had a decision to make.
Go for the field goal, tying the Little Caesar's Bowl with under a minute to play in regulation--or go for the win.
"That was all the players. We were going to kick the field goal, but they told me that they were here to win the game," Guidry said. "I asked everyone and they wanted to go for it so we took the chance.
WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes dropped back, made an initial read, then fired a pass targeted at senior tight end Jack Doyle.
The pass flew barely out of Doyle's reach, ending the Hilltoppers' chances at winning their first FBS bowl game.
"I don't know what I would have done," said Chippewas' head coach Dan Enos on the WKU decision to go for the 1st down. "But I will never second guess a coach for trying to win."
The early 4th quarter excitement began when facing a 4th-and-1 at the WKU 1-yard line, the Chippewas opted to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal, but were ruled just short--down at the half-yard line--after a referee review.
Taking over at their own 1-yard line, WKU went three-and-out before CMU blocked the Hilltoppers punt attempt, recovering the ball at the 26-yard line.
The Chippewas' needed only 3 plays to reach the endzone, scoring on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Radcliff to Cody Wilson to go-ahead 24-21 with 5:11 to play.
Jakes completed two passes to wide receiver Willie Mcneal on 3rd-and-longs to put the Hilltoppers in position for the faithful final play on the last drive.
Big plays early
Central Michigan got on the board first with a 69-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Radcliff to wide receiver Andrew Flory.
Western Kentucky quickly answered with a 3 play, 77-yard drive that started with a 70-yard bomb from quarterback Kawaun Jakes to wide receiver Rico Brown.
The 70-yard throw was a career long for Jakes, who's previous career high was 63 yards.
After runningback Antonio Andrews was stuffed on a 1-yard run, Jakes scored on a 6-yard scramble up the middle to tie it up at 7-7.
CMU responded with a 5-play, 73-yard drive with another touchdown catch by Flory, this one for 29 yards.
Central Michigan extended their lead to 17-7 with 9:59 to play in the 2nd quarter, after a 50-yard field goal by David Harman.
The 50-yard kick tied the Little Caesars Bowl record for longest made field goal.
Trailing 17-7 and facing a 3rd-and-3 in the Chippewa redzone, Jakes threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle on a play-action rollout, closing the gap after the extra point at 17-14.
WKU went to Andrews for 4 plays and 63 yards on the 6 play, 75 yard scoring drive.
On the following drive, a 46-yard Central Michigan field goal attempt was blocked by WKU linebacker Xavius Boyd.
The teams traded possessions before the Chippewas' took over with 37 seconds left in the half at their own 40-yard line.
In field goal range at the WKU 32 with only seconds left in the 1st half, Central Michigan ended their scoring chance with a fumble by Radcliff, leading to halftime.
The Chippewas outgained the Hilltoppers 288 yards to 172 in the 1st half, adding 17 1st downs to only 5 for WKU.
WKU took its first lead of the game after a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Kadeem Jones, on a 16 play, 80 yard-drive that ate up 9:23 on the clock.
The extra point put WKU ahead 21-17 near the end of the 3rd quarter.
More records broken
Radcliff was awarded the game's MVP, throwing 19-for-29 passing for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns.
WKU's Hendrix Brakefield executed a punt that went for 74 yards in the 1st quarter, briefly holding the Little Caesars' Bowl record for longest punt, before CMU's Richie Hogan kicked an 82-yarder to claim the record.
Jakes 2nd quarter touchdown pass was the 51st of his career, giving him the most career touchdown passes in WKU school history.
Andrews broke former WKU runningback Bobby Rainey's single-season rushing yards record, but fell just shy of Barry Sanders' NCAA record for all-purpose yards.