Bowling Green, Ky. - The Red team scored nine unanswered fourth-quarter points - including an interception returned for a touchdown by Jonathan Dowling - to defeat the White team 16-10 Saturday night in Western Kentucky University's annual spring football game at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
The game brought an end to four weeks of spring practice for the Hilltoppers.
"I thought the guys competed and some guys made plays," said WKU head coach Willie Taggart. "All three of the backs did a good job of running. Jonathan Dowling had two picks - one for a touchdown. You always love that. Overall both teams did some good things. We still have some work to do, but I'm pleased with the progress we made this spring."
With the Red team leading 7-3 at halftime, the White squad quickly took its first lead on the game on the opening drive of the third quarter. On the second play of the drive, Kawaun Jakes hit Antonio Andrew on a screen pass, and Andrews was able to break free for a 56-yard touchdown to put White in front 10-7 early in the period.
With a running clock after halftime, the third quarter wrapped up quickly without another score, but Red was able to pull even early in the fourth when Monte Merrick connected on a 42-yard field goal to knot things up at 10-10.
On White's next possession, Jakes was pressured into a throw on third down that Dowling was able to pick off at the 34 and sprint untouched into the end zone - putting Red back in front 16-10 after a missed PAT.
With his two INTs, Dowling was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Again with the clock running and time getting short, White was able to drive the ball near midfield with just over two minutes remaining, but the Red defense came up with stops on both third and fourth down, and then ran out the clock to secure the six-point victory.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Red team took advantage of the game's first turnover to put the first points on the board. Dowling intercepted a Jakes pass, setting up his offense at the 45 yard line. Two completions from James Mauro to John Evans - one for 19 yards and another for 14 - set up the Red team inside the 10. An eight-yard scoring pass from Mauro to Kadeem Jones on third down gave Red a 7-0 lead with 14:14 to go in the first half.
After each team came up empty on their next possession, Red was able to get out of the shadow of its own end zone to get on the board. A Hendrix Brakefield punt was downed as the one yard line, but Andrews broke a 34-yard run on the opening play of the drive to give the White team some breathing room. Andrews was able to rattle off a 25-yard run later in the drive, and Jesse Roy connected on a 49-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3 at the 5:31 mark of the second quarter. That score would hold as the teams went to the locker room at halftime.
For the game, Andrews finished with 206 all-purpose yards for the White team, rushing for 121 yards on 18 carries. He also caught two passes for 67 yards. Jakes finished the game 12-for-26 passing for 141 yards and a score. For the Red team, Mauro completed 12 of 21 passes for 107 yards, connecting with Evans on five of those completions.
Defensively, Andrew Jackson led the White team with a game-high eight tackles, while Gavin Rocker added six stops. Both were also credited with 1.5 sacks for loss and 2.5 tackles for loss. William Simmons, Kareem Peterson, Jamal Forrest and Daerius Washington each had six tackles to lead the Red team.
"I'm very pleased with the spring," added Taggart. "It was by far our best spring since I have been here. We started back in January. Our guys came in with the right attitude and they finished strong. I have been very pleased that they have finished strong in the classroom, too. Overall, I am happy with this football team. I think our Hilltopper fans will love this team as we continue to climb and continue to make this something special around here."