Mountaineers match up with prolific Western Kentucky offense in Boca Raton Bowl


Max Correa

Senior linebacker D’Marco Jackson stiff arms a Georgia Southern receiver in a 27-3 Senior Day victory. Jackson finished with seven tackles, including one tackle for loss.

Cameron Burnett, Visual Managing Editor

App State football takes the long trip to Boca Raton, Florida, Dec. 18 to clash with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Boca Raton Bowl.

“We’re playing a very good opponent here and everyone knows it, so I’m excited because it’s really going to put our program up to a measuring stick to how good we are,” App State head coach Shawn Clark said. “It’s going to be a great game, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Mountaineers finished the season 10-3 while Western Kentucky finished 8-5. Both teams are coming off of losses in their respective conference championship games.

App State is undefeated in bowl games since joining the FBS, with the most recent being a 56-28 win over North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. A win would bring the bowl win streak to seven in App State’s history. The Mountaineers’ seven-season streak of bowl games is a record for a team after moving up to the FBS level, while holding an FBS-best undefeated record during the historic stretch.

Coming off of the loss to Louisiana in the Sun Belt Championship game, the Mountaineers have a chance to end their season with a victory, but they’ll be tasked with defending a prolific offensive attack.

Hilltoppers quarterback Bailey Zappe leads all of college football with 5,545 passing yards and 56 passing touchdowns. Coming into the bowl game, Zappe needs just under 300 yards to shatter the record for passing yards in a season, while five passing touchdowns would break 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow’s recent record with 60 passing touchdowns.

Zappe has two 1000-yard receivers in Jerreth Sterns and Mitchell Tinsley. App State senior cornerbacks Shaun Jolly and Steven Jones Jr. will have their hands full covering the pair Saturday.

Western Kentucky gives up an average of 126 rushing yards per game, so the Mountaineers will look to exploit the clock and keep the ball out of Zappe’s hand.

App State’s defense gives up just 20 points per game, and the juggernaut matchup with the Hilltopper offense will be the deciding factor. On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineer offense will need to continue their balanced attack and manage the clock to come out with another bowl victory.

The Mountaineers and Hilltoppers meet Dec. 18 in the FAU Stadium for an early 11 a.m. kickoff, televised on ESPN.