Written By: Merrissa Vault
Boca Raton, FL— It was 75 degrees and sunny in Boca Raton, FL at FAU Stadium as Conference USA champions, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and American Athletic Conference champions, the Memphis Tigers went head to head in the 2016 Boca Bowl. Two top-10 nationally ranked offenses collided, but WKU’s offense prevailed as the victor led by Anthony Wales who had a career night.
The Memphis offense kicked off the game. Within two minutes the Tigers went 65 yards in 5 plays. Quarterback, Riley Ferguson found Tony Pollard in the end zone to put the Tigers on the board first. Western Kentucky’s offense followed close behind. The Hilltoppers found the goal line shortly after with a 75-yard drive to their end zone; quarterback, Mike White found Stevie Donatell for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Kicker, Skyler Simcox completed the kick to tie the game 7-7. As the Tiger’s offense made their way back onto the field they struggled on 3rd down conversions and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Elliot, to make the score 10-7 Memphis. Western Kentucky’s offense did not have the same issue. Offensive linemen, Forrest Lamp rushed for 9 yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown, and WKU ended the first quarter with a lead of 14-10.
Rolling into the second quarter it was the same story, pure offense on both sides. Hilltoppers QB, White found Nicholas Norris for a 37-yard touchdown pass. With a score of 21-10, Memphis went 8 plays for 75 yards to eventually find the end zone and bring the score to 21-17 WKU. WKU continued to pound the Tiger’s defense, and after a long 13- yard drive Anthony Wales rushed for a 2-yard touchdown. The highlight of the half came from Memphis. With 45 seconds left in the game, the Hilltoppers appeared as if they were going to take a knee then Anthony Wales rushed for 53 yards to give WKU the first done. Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, on the next drive, White was sacked and then on second down threw deep into the end zone, and was intercepted by Memphis Tiger’s Dontrel Nelson. However, the Tigers failed to convert, and the half ended with WKU leading with a score of 28-17.
Going into the second half Western Kentucky continued to dominate the game. Less than 2 minutes into the game White found Taywan Taylor for a 41-yard touchdown pass to increase their lead to 35-17. There wasn’t much action from the Tigers after. Their offense struggled against a solid Hilltopper defense and failed to convert on downs. WKU continued to punish Memphis and Ferguson found Anthony Wales once again for a 3-yard touchdown. Memphis started to show some spark and went for 6 plays to find Anthony Miller for a 10-yard pass to decrease their deficit 41-24. Memphis continued to light their spark and held off the Hilltopper offense on their following drive forcing WKU to go for a 21-yard field goal attempt. The Hilltoppers kick was good and brought their lead to 44-24.
The fourth quarter began uneventfully for both teams. Both offenses could not convert on their opportunities, and both defenses prevented any potential scoring opportunities. Memphis was the first team to break the scoring funk. Ferguson found Anthony Miller once again for a 45-yard touchdown pass. However, it wasn’t enough for Memphis. Due to lazy defensive awareness by Memphis, Western Kentucky drew a penalty on 4th down which allowed for WKU to take advantage at 1st and goal. Anthony Wales, the offensive MVP for the night, was ideally the one to seal the deal for WKU with a rushing touchdown to bring the score to 51-31. After that, Memphis’s fate was sealed.
Memphis battled to stop the Hilltoppers running game but was unsuccessful. Memphis head coach Mike Norvell discussed the challenges they faced with WKU’s offense, “They did an outstanding job. We knew they had some experienced guys. Their running back ran hard, their offensive line we knew would be one of the best we played and they played up to that level tonight.”
It was evident Western Kentucky’s offense was superior tonight. The team set a Boca Bowl offensive record with 598 total yards and running back, Anthony Wales set the rushing record with 262 yards.
Wales performance did not go unnoticed as Western Kentucky Interim head coach Nick Holt talked about how much of an impact he had for the Hilltoppers after the game,“When he runs the ball, it ignites the defense, it inspires us to play harder. I’m so proud of him and his effort every time he falls forward.”
Emotions were high after the game for Western Kentucky as they hoisted their coach on their shoulders and celebrated on the field with friends and family as 2016 Boca Bowl champions.
Written by Adrian Beecher
Boca Raton, FL- Anthony Wales' 144 yards rushing and quarterback Mike Whites 184 yards and two TD passes has the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers up on the Memphis Tigers 28-17 at the half of the 2016 Boca Raton Bowl. Here is the full halftime recap from the Boca Bowl.
Both teams opening possessions ended quickly on 3 nd outs. After WKU’s opening possession, they had a bad punt that gave the Tigers the ball 1st and 10 at their own 35 yard line. Memphis was able to take advantage of the great field position and strike fast. They capped off a 5-play 65-yard drive with a 45-yard td pass from Riley Ferguson to Tony Pollard to make it 7-0 with 10:43 left in the 1st quarter.
The Hilltoppers weren’t going to go quietly into the night and immediately joined the party answering on their ensuing possession. Led by QB Mike White, WKU went 75 yards in 8 plays as White found Stevie Donatell for the 4 yard TD connection to tie this one up with 7:42 left in the 1st.
Memphis’ Ferguson then quickly led his team down field. However after getting into the red zone their drive stalled and they had to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Jake Elliott.
Mike White then once again led the Hilltoppers down field, this time on their longest drive of the day. It was an 8 play 78 yard drive that was capped off on a backwards pass from White to Forrest lamp, who then ran it in from 9 yards out to put Western Kentucky back on top 14-10 with 1:47 left in the 1st quarter.
On Memphis’ next possession, WKU linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe went in for a tackle in the back field on a pass out to the flat and had helmet to helmet contact that was called as a targeting, ending Joel’s day. This made it 1st and 10 Memphis at their own 45-yard line.
As we roll into the 2nd quarter, Memphis’ first drive of the quarter stalled out and they had to settle for another Jake Eliot field goal. This time it was from 45 yards out, however Elliot’s attempt hit the left upright and bounced back onto the field. This gave the ball back to the Hilltoppers setting them up at their own 26-yard line.
Memphis’ lack of ability to move the ball after getting to their own 30-yard line started to set them back. After the missed field goal, it took WKU just 6 plays to go 74 yards as White connected with Nicholas Norris for the 37 yard TD connection to put the Hilltoppers up 21-10 with 11:59 left in the half.
After struggling to move the ball inside their opponent’s 30-yard line, Memphis was able to strike into the end zone from the red zone on their ensuing possession. It was on a 7-yard TD pass from Ferguson to Anthony Miller to make it 21-17.
WKU’s offensive success continued on their next drive as they scored their 4th consecutive touchdown. This time it came on a 2 yard run from Anthony Wales to extend the Hilltoppers lead to 11 with 2:16 left in the 1st half.
The Tigers next possession ended in a punt, this gave the Hilltoppers possession at their own 15-yard line and they lined up for a QB kneel. Much to the surprise of the Memphis defense, the Hilltoppers faked the snap and Anthony Wales takes a direct snap and ran for 53 yards to make it 1st and 10 at the Memphis 32 yard line. On the next play Mike White threw to the endzone and was picked off by Dontrell Nelson. Memphis would take a sack on their first play from scrimmage, sending us into the half with WKU up 28-17.
Written by Brett Korpi
The according to the forecast is it could get into the 80s in Palm Beach County. No, it’s not the temperature, it’s the predicted point total of the Boca Raton Bowl, where the explosive offenses of the Western Kentucky and the Memphis Tigers will try to keep up with one another.
The Hilltoppers (10-3, 7-1 C-USA) make the trip while on a roll winning their last seven games including the C-USA championship. They are expecting to light up the scoreboard, as they are second in the nation with an average of 45.1 points per game.
The Tigers (8-4, 5-3 AAC) are no strangers to scoring points either, averaging 39.5 points per game, which is 17th in the country. They are also riding high after their wild 48-44 upset victory over Houston in the final game of the regular season.
The two will clash at 7 p.m. EST tonight at FAU Stadium, on the campus of Florida Atlantic University.
Despite all of their success this season, there is some uncertainty for Western Kentucky.
Just after the bowl selection was announced, former head coach Jeff Brohm stepped down in order to take a job with Purdue. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt has stepped in as interim head coach, while the Hilltoppers’ wait for former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford to take over the program.
Western Kentucky can just look at their opponent for optimism in the situation. When Justin Fuente left Memphis to take the Virginia Tech job last season. Offensive coordinator Darrel Dickey stepped in for the interim before current head coach Mike Novel took over to lead the Tigers back to a bowl this season.
Holt and the Hilltoppers will be making their second trip to the Boca Raton campus this season. And, they are hoping to match their 52-3 victory over the FAU Owls.
However, it will be no day at the beach this time for a Hilltopper defense that ranks 37th in the country allowing just 368 yards per game.
Ferguson, who took over the reins after Paxton Lynch departed for the NFL, has thrown for 3,326 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. He is joined in the backfield by Doroland Dorceus, who has accumulated 783 yards for the Tigers and nine scores. Wide receiver Anthony Miller, is Ferguson’s top target with 1,283 yards and 11 touchdowns.
On defense, Memphis has let up a lot of yards, opponents are averaging 443 yards per game. However, the Tiger secondary is strong, what it has only given up 17 scores, and has picked off 15 passes.
Hilltopper quarterback Mike White will be looking for ways to beat that unit. Receivers Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris will be his main weapons. The tandem combined for 162 catches, 2,839 yards and 29 touchdowns. If he is unable to beat the Tigers secondary, he will look to running back Anthony Wales to carry the load. He has rushed for 1,376 and 24 touchdowns this season.
For now, all we can do is sit back, wait and watch to see who will come out on top. Will it be the Tigers from Memphis or the Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky?
After Western Kentucky's pep rally Monday ahead of the 2016 Boca Bowl Game, we meet up with Community Captain Doug Paton. He shared with us all about being a Community Captain and what all it entails.
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