Joe Brown stopped Nathan Marcus a yard shy of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt with 33 seconds left to preserve Western Kentucky's 14-12 victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday night.
Brown made an open-field tackle after Marcus caught Johnny McCrary's pass on the conversion attempt. Vanderbilt had cut the lead to 14-12 when McCrary threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Trent Sherfield on fourth-and-goal.
Vanderbilt recovered the ensuing onside kick but touched the ball before it traveled the necessary 10 yards.
Leon Allen had a 4-yard touchdown run and Tyler Higbee caught a 9-yard touchdown pass for Western Kentucky. Higbee set up Allen's score with a 65-yard reception.
Tommy Openshaw kicked field goals of 49 and 26-yards for Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt had three scoreless trips inside Western Kentucky's 10-yard line. McCrary had two passes intercepted in the end zone, and Openshaw missed a 28-yard field goal after a low snap. The Commodores had to settle for a field goal on another trip inside the 10 when Marcus dropped a pass in the right corner of the end zone.
Western Kentucky has won six straight games in a streak that began last November. Vanderbilt was seeking to turn things around after going 3-9 last year in Derek Mason's debut season as coach.
Mason, a former Stanford defensive coordinator, responded to that dismal year by firing both his coordinators and putting himself in charge of the defense. Vanderbilt's defense contained a Western Kentucky offense that ranked sixth nationally in points per game (44.4) and fourth in yards per game (534.6) last season.
That high-powered Western Kentucky offense was scoreless for the first 44 minutes of Thursday's game.
Higbee finally awoke Western Kentucky's offense late in the third quarter when he caught a Brandon Doughty pass, headed to the right sideline and broke free before finally getting brought down at the Vanderbilt 4 to set up the Hilltoppers' first touchdown.
After Openshaw's 26-yard field goal cut Western Kentucky's lead to 7-6, Doughty found Higbee again for a touchdown that made it 14-6 with 8:38 remaining.
Higbee finished with four catches for 102 yards, while Doughty was 19 of 30 for 209 yards. Doughty threw for 4,830 yards and 49 touchdowns last season to lead all Football Bowl Subdivision players in both categories.
McCrary, who earned the start for Vanderbilt after winning a quarterback competition with Wade Freebeck, went 18 of 34 for 217 yards and also rushed for 66 yards on eight carries. He engineered a 77-yard touchdown drive in a two-minute drill to get the Commodores within reach.
Then Brown stopped Vanderbilt's comeback hopes one yard short.