Guidry gamble fails in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
DEC 27, 2012 12:00a ET
Wednesday, though, was far from normal.
Trailing 24-21 with 51 seconds left in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Guidry's Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were facing fourth-and-2 from the Central Michigan 19. The interim coach told his team to kick the ball and set up overtime.
They changed his mind.
"That was all about my players," Guidry said. "We had the field-goal unit lined up, but the players told me that they were here to win a bowl game, not play for overtime. I asked the offense what they wanted to do, and I asked the defense what they wanted to do. Everyone said they wanted to go for it."
In the movies, quarterback Kawaun Jakes would have thrown a touchdown pass, winning Western Kentucky's first bowl game, and ending both his and Guidry's careers with a spectacular finish.
Instead, Jakes threw into double coverage and tight end Jack Doyle couldn't repeat the circus catch he had made for an earlier touchdown. Central Michigan (7-6) took over on downs and ran out the clock to finish the 24-21 win at Detroit's Ford Field.
"I'd do the same thing every day, and twice on Sunday — these kids deserved to go for the win," said Guidry, who took over after the regular season when Willie Taggart accepted the South Florida job, and now gives way to Bobby Petrino. "They did a fantastic job hanging together during all this turmoil, and I wasn't going to stop them for taking that shot."
Despite Guidry's protestations, Jakes took the blame for the final play.
"I just missed the throw," he said. "The first read was covered, but Jack was there. If I get the ball in the right spot, he never has to try to make that diving catch."
Central Michigan coach Dan Enos, who got his first bowl victory, wasn't sure he would have made the same decision, but understood that Guidry was in a unique position.
"I don't know if I would have done that, but I'm never going to second-guess a coach who tries to win a game," he said. "Coach Guidry and a lot of his assistant coaches knew they were coaching their last game at Western Kentucky, and they did a great job of keeping their team prepared. They wanted to go for the win, and they almost got it."
The game wasn't one of the shootouts that has been a Detroit bowl tradition back to Chad Pennington's 80-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss in the first minute of the first Motor City Bowl, but the finish made up for it. The Chippewas though they had taken the lead on Zurlon Tipton's 1-yard fourth-down TD run with 9:21 to play, but a replay review overturned the decision, ruling his elbow had hit the ground a few inches from the goal line.
That's when Central Michigan's defense saved the day. They nearly stopped Hilltoppers star Antonio Andrews for a safety, then blocked Hendrix Brakefield's punt out of his own end zone. That gave the Chippewas the ball on the Western Kentucky 26.
"We knew we just needed to give the offense one last chance," said Central Michigan linebacker Shamari Benson. "Every player on our defense knew that our offense would get the job done if we gave them another chance."
Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff proved Benson right, hitting Cody Wilson for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 5:11 to play.
"I couldn't have scripted this any better than it really happened," said Wilson, another senior. "My last catch in my last college game was a touchdown to win a bowl game. How could it be any better than that?"
Wilson finished with 10 catches for 101 yards, filling the hole left when starting receivers Titus Davis and Courtney Williams were suspended for violating team rules. He wasn't alone, though. Freshman Andrew Flory, starting in place of Davis, caught touchdown passes of 69 and 29 yards in the first quarter to help Central Michigan take an early lead.
"I never thought I'd have a chance to score twice in the first quarter of my first bowl game," he said. "I got a chance because of what happened to those guys, and I was able to take advantage."
Flory didn't catch a pass after the first quarter, but the deep threat he presented forced Western Kentucky to change their defensive game plan.
"When he caught those two balls against us, we obviously had to make some adjustments," Guidry said. "That's when Tipton started to hurt us on the ground."
Tipton finished with 101 yards rushing, 18 fewer than Andrews. Western Kentucky's star finished with 184 all-purpose yards, leaving him 90 short of breaking Barry Sanders' single-season record of 3,250.
"I fell a little short this year," Andrews said. "I'm going to go for it again next year."
Guidry will be following his run at the record, no matter where he ends up coaching. He won't be joining Petrino's staff and doesn't expect to end up in South Florida with Taggeret, either.
"I'm going to go home, and spend some time with my family," he said. "My wife and kids didn't get to come to this game, because we had a death in the family, so I want to see them. After that, I'm off to the coaching convention to try to find a job."