Written by Derek Robbie
The 2017 incarnation of the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida is a matchup between Georgia State University and Western Kentucky University. Kickoff is this Saturday, December 16 at 2:30 P.M. EST at Camping World Stadium.
The Cure Bowl will only be the second time the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and Georgia State Panthers have ever faced each other. Both teams come into the contest with similar records. The Panthers go into the game with a 6-5 record, and the Hilltoppers are .500 with a 6-6 record. Both teams will look to end their respective seasons with winning records. Two coaches lead these programs in their first seasons with their schools, Shawn Elliot for Georgia State and Mike Sanford for Western Kentucky.
“I think it’s very important,” Said Western Kentucky guard Tyler Witt on finishing the season strong. “It was a blessing for us to get the opportunity to come down here and compete for our fourth straight bowl win. With that in mind, we’re ready to go and we’re ready to get this win.”
Additionally, Western Kentucky will look to win their fourth straight bowl game. To get that fourth consecutive bowl win, the Hilltoppers will rely on redshirt senior quarterback Mike White offensively and redshirt junior linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe defensively. White, who hails from Pembroke Pines, Florida, was fourth in the NCAA in total yards with 3,826 in the 2017 season. Iyiegbuniwe led the Tops defensively with 104 tackles (nine for loss) and three forced fumbles on the year. The Hilltoppers and Coach Sanford will need big games out of these two essential players if his side is to be on top by Saturday night.
The Panthers have been road warriors all season long, winning five of their six wins away from home. Though they are technically the home team in the AutoNation Cure Bowl, it is no run-of-the-mill home game due to the travel and actually being away from home. Georgia State will need the connection between senior quarterback Conner Manning and sophomore receiver Penny Hart to be fruitful if they are to keep up with Western Kentucky’s high-powered offense. Defensively, they will need to continue to force offenses to go three-and-out like they have all season. Opponents have only converted first downs at a 38% clip on third downs.
“He’s got a passion for the sport. He has a passion to be very good,” said Coach Elliot on why Penny Hart is so special. “He works out constantly, loves the game of football, loves to compete and separates himself just by his attitude every day. That is something you don’t see a whole lot of in our culture these days.”
Be sure to tune into what is set up to be an intriguing matchup this Saturday afternoon!
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