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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Western Kentucky redshirt freshman quarterback Caden Veltkamp decided to enter the transfer portal earlier this year after being told by the coaching staff he'd be converted to tight end if he came back next season.

The Hilltoppers may want to reconsider that plan.

Veltkamp came off the bench to throw for 383 yards and five touchdowns, Lucas Carneiro made a winning 29-yard field goal in overtime and Western Kentucky erased a 28-point deficit to beat Old Dominion 38-35 on Monday at the Famous Toastery Bowl.

Veltkamp, the Hilltoppers third-string quarterback this season who had thrown just six passes in his college career, threw a 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 19 seconds left in regulation to push the game into an extra period.

The Hilltoppers (8-5) blocked a short field-goal attempt in the extra period - their second blocked kick of the game - before Carneiro drilled his.

“I knew I could do it; I knew it was in me,” Veltkamp said. “But it's all credit to these guys around me. I love these guys. I love this team and I would do anything for this team.”

As for his future, he said, “they told me if I come back I'm a tight end. So we will see if they still want to do that. We'll see.”

Western Kentucky's Dalvin Smith had nine receptions for 77 yards and three touchdown catches, two of which he speared with one hand.

“I wasn't throwing great balls, but these guys were making plays," Veltkamp said.

The Hilltoppers (8-5) played without starting quarterback Austin Reed, who opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL draft. The plan was to turn the reigns of the offense over to Turner Helton, the nephew of head coach Tyson Helton.

But Helton was benched midway through the first quarter after he fumbled on his first possession and threw a pick-6 on his next.

The coach said he planned to rotate his two QBs, but stuck with Veltkamp after he developed the hot hand.

“Caden was ready when it was his turn,” Helton said. “He has a warrior spirit and a competitive spirit.”

The Hilltoppers would mount a comeback with Smith snaring a pass out of the air with one hand on a crossing route and taking it 17 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 28-14 with 10:24 left in the third quarter.

After ODU quarterback Grant Wilson scored a 21-yard scramble to make it a 21-point game, Veltkamp responded with two more touchdown passes - a 37-yard strike to Elijah Young and his third scoring toss to Smith - to cut the lead to 35-28.

Old Dominion tried to make it a two-possession game, but Ethan Sanchez's 47-yard field goal was blocked, giving the Hilltoppers one last chance with 2:53 left.

Western Kentucky quickly reached the Monarchs 5 behind a 30-yard reception by Jimmy Holiday and a penalty on ODU staff for interfering with an official near the sideline. Still, it looked like ODU might hold on and win after Wayne Matthews sacked Veltkamp on third down at the 15.

But Veltkamp wouldn't be denied. He responded with a 15-yard TD pass on fourth-and-goal to Hutchinson near the left pylon to send the game into overtime.

“This team never quits and it never backs down,” coach Helton said on the field during the trophy presentation. "We were in the locker room at halftime and nobody complained. We said it's going to be a hell of a victory, and it was.”

Wilson ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another for Old Dominion (6-7). Kris Caine returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown and Kadarius Calloway added a rushing touchdown for the Monarchs.

This was the first year for the bowl in Charlotte. It is normally the Bahamas Bowl, but was moved to the mainland because stadium renovations in Nassau were not complete.


Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers were in a tough position playing without Austin Reed, who started every game this season at quarterback. Helton clearly wasn't ready for the spotlight but Veltkamp was terrific and showed great poise in the pocket. Now the big question will be if he returns next season.

Old Dominion: It's a devastating loss for the Monarchs, who finished the season strong with three wins, including beating both Georgia Southern and Georgia State on the final play to become bowl eligible. It was only ODU's third bowl game, but the future is looking bright in the underrated Sun Belt Conference with Wilson under center.


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