WKU FOOTBALL | Hilltoppers Win Boca Raton Bowl
12/21/2016 12:06 AM
The WKU Hilltoppers finish the season 11-3 after a dominating 51-31 performance over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Memphis was first on the scoreboard, Riley Ferguson’s 45-yard pass to Tony Pollard gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead. After Jake Elliot’s point-after-attempt, they had an early 7-0 lead. The drive took just five plays and 1:53 to score.
Just over three minutes later, the Tops struck back when Mike White’s four-yard pass to Stevie Donatell was good; Skylar Simcox kicked the PAT and just like that, the game was tied.
Memphis’ Elliot kicked a first quarter field goal to give the Tigers 10-7 advantage.
Tops found the end zone again in the first quarter, this time offensive lineman Forrest Lamp scored his first collegiate touchdown on a nine-yard rush. Another Simcox PAT game the tops a 14-10 advantage heading into the second quarter.
WKU sophomore linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe was ejected in the first quarter on a controversial targeting call.
The second quarter opened with another WKU touchdown, White to Nicholas Norris on a 37-yard pass. Another Simcox PAT, the Hilltoppers began to pull away, leading 21-10.
Memphis answered when Ferguson threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller. Another Elliot PAT, Tops lead 21-17.
WKU found the end zone once more before the half from Anthony Wales on a two-yard rush. Simcox’s PAT made the score 28-17 heading into the locker room.
WKU began the second half with another pair of touchdowns, the first was a 41-yard pass from White to Taywan Taylor, then an Ace Wales three-yard rush. Simcox hit the first PAT, but missed the second, making the score 41-17 with 7:31 in the third quarter.
Ferguson connected with Miller again on a ten-yard pass, to make the score 41-24, WKU.
Simcox kicked a 21-yard field goal to finish out the third quarter, giving the Hilltoppers a 20-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Memphis scored once more in the game with 8:47 left on the clock as Ferguson found Miller once more on a 45-yard pass. Elliot kicked the PAT, giving WKU a 44-31 lead.
Under the direction of interim head coach Nick Holt, Western sealed their fate on a one-yard rush from Wales and a Simcox PAT with 2:18 to play to make the score 51-31.
WKU had 598 yards of total offense (262 rushing, 336 passing), just one more first down than Memphis (28), and were 6/7 in the red zone.
Senior Ace Wales finishes tied for career rushing touchdowns at WKU with Lerron Moore at 43; Willie Taggart is first with 47. He finished with 35-245-3 rushing in the game and four catches for 84 yards.
Senior Taywan Taylor is now #15 all-time in the NCAA for career receiving yards with 4,234. He finished the game with 9-144-1.
Junior Mike White finished 20-30, 336 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The defense finished with 66 total tackles, five sacks, ten tackles-for-loss, one interception, seven pass break-ups, three quarterback hits and one forced-dumble. Senior Branden Lesten led the defense with nine tackles (5 solo) and two pass break-ups. Keith Brown and Devante Declos combined for a tackle-for-loss. Derik Overstreet and Declos each had a sack. Nick Dawson-Brents had five tackles, three sacks, three TFL, a forced fumble, a quarterback hit and a break-up.
In the last two seasons, WKU has a 23-5 overall record; they are 17-1 in C-USA play and have two bowl wins and two conference titles.
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