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.

Lyndsey Gough

Lyndsey is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News. You can catch Lyndsey’s work on Sports Night, the only nightly show dedicated to covering everything from high school to college sports in Kentucky. She loves covering all sports but it’s the personal stories that really stand out to Lyndsey, like the story of a community coming together to remember high school track start Trinity Gay who was killed. Lyndsey came to Spectrum News from WBKO in Bowling Green where she was an Anchor, Reporter and Producer covering news and sports. She’s a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of UK. Sports Night airs at 6:30 and 10:30 weeknights on Spectrum News. If you have a story idea for Lyndsey email her at Lyndsey.gough@charter.com.


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