Bowling Green, Ky. — On the final play from scrimmage Saturday night, Bobby Rainey scored from a yard out on fourth-and-goal to lead the White team to a 23-21 victory over the Red in Western Kentucky University’s annual spring game at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
The play capped a 16-play, 74-yard march for the White, which held the ball for the last 10-plus minutes of the contest.
“I don’t think we could have scripted it any better to come down to the last play,” Hilltopper head coach David Elson said. “Bobby stepped up and made a play to win the game.”
K.J. Black made two big plays early in the final possession to keep the White team alive, scrambling for 16 yards on the first third-down play of the drive before finding Jessie Quinn for a 27-yard gain on 3rd-and-18 from the from White-38. Black would end the night 17-of-29 passing for 159 yards while rushing for 57 more. Quinn led the squad with seven catches for 82 yards.
Rainey would carry the ball on seven of the final 10 snaps, posting 21 yards before running around right end on the final play for the winning score. He led the team with 78 yards on 17 carries.
Ahead by four with the ball at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Red team was driving until Jon Belcher stopped Brandon C. Smith for a five-yard loss to create a third-and-long situation that wasn’t converted.
Each team scored on its first drive of the second half, beginning with Black’s nine-yard pass to Quinn that put the White up 17-14 with 10:19 remaining in the third period. Black found Derrius Brooks, who added three receptions for 40 yards, for a 20-yard gain to move the ball just outside the red zone, then Rainey rushed for 14 yards to put the White inside the 10-yard line.
The Red answered with a seven-play, 57-yard march, as Smith completed all three pass attempts for 34 yards and rushed for another seven to set up Tyrell Hayden’s one-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes left in the third period.
It was Hayden’s third score of the game, as he reached the end zone from two yards out on the opening drive and with a six-yard run 12-and-a-half minutes before halftime. He ended up with a team-high 37 yards on nine carries.
Smith completed 14-of-27 attempts for 178 yards, with Quinterrance Cooper leading all players with 111 yards on six receptions. Jake Gaebler and Ronnie Letcher both caught three passes as well.
The White outgained the Red, 322-294, though, with Black leading a pair of scoring drives in the second quarter. After Braxston Miller stopped Marell Booker for no gain on fourth-and-one, the White needed to go just 40 yards before Black’s seven-yard scoring run on the second play of the second quarter tied the score 7-7. Zac Minturn added a 35-yard field goal midway through the period after a 14-play possession.
Miller and Brad Cloud each recorded seven stops to pace the White squad, with Jon Belcher adding five solo tackles including two for loss. Chris Bullard was credited with six tackles and two passes broken up, while Orlando Misaalefua added five.
The Red’s Ryan Beard led all players with eight stops, and Rashad Etheridge, Marcus Minor and Travis Watters both collected six tackles. Watters’ second-quarter interception provided the only turnover committed by either offensive unit. Darvis McBride and Tim Nelson both added five stops, with the former credited with two behind the line of scrimmage.
“I thought it was a great game. It was good for our fans and everybody who came out,” said Elson. “When we held the draft, I thought our guys did a really good job of selecting teams that were going to be evenly matched, and that’s how it turned out. There was great competition and intensity tonight.”
The Hilltoppers will officially open the 2008 campaign with an Aug. 30 contest at Indiana.