Western Kentucky Tops Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl

Western Kentucky University

By Ryan Nelson (@TheRyanNelson_)

BOCA RATON -- The Western Kentucky Wildcats picked up their 11th win of the season with a 51-31 victory over the Memphis Tigers in the Boca Raton Bowl.

The scoreboard operator at FAU Stadium earned every penny of his salary on Tuesday night. These teams combined for 82 points, 1,089 yards of total offense, 11 touchdowns, and 54 first downs.

The star of the night for either team was WKU RB Anthony ‘Ace’ Wales. Wales lived up to his nickname for the Tops, racking up a career-best 245 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Wales also tacked on 84 yards receiving. 

WKU QB Mike White, the Ft. Lauderdale native who played in front of 60 of his closest friends and family, put on a show in South Florida. White threw for 336 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Hilltopper wide receivers Taywan Taylor (144 yards receiving, 1 TD) and Nicholas ‘Cheebo’ Norris (65 yards receiving, 1 TD) proved difficult to cover for the Memphis defense.

Memphis QB Riley Ferguson finished with 372 passing yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. Ferguson suffered an apparent leg injury in the third quarter, but returned to action in the fourth.

Explosive Tiger WR Anthony Miller hauled in 151 yards and three scores.

Didn't see that coming 

The Hilltoppers made a habit of getting tricky on Tuesday night. The Tops successfully executed a lateral to OL Forrest Lamp for a nine-yard touchdown in the first half. WKU then ran the famed ‘fumblerooski’ trick play to Wales for a 53-yard gain just before half time.

However, on the very next play, QB Mike White’s pass was intercepted by Memphis DB Dontrell Nelson.

What’s next for the Hilltoppers?

Interim head coach Nick Holt led the Tops into battle on Tuesday night in replacement of former head coach Jeff Brohm. Brohm accepted the head coaching position at Purdue earlier this month.

WKU’s new head coach Mike Sanford was on the sideline at the Boca Raton Bowl. Now that the Tops season has come to an end, Sanford will begin assembling his staff.

"It's really about finding ways to improve upon what's been done,” Sanford said in an in-game interview with ESPN, “and finding unique ways to do that."

Conference USA Bowl Games

With the Tops win on Tuesday night, C-USA improved to 2-1 thus far in bowl games. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, while the UTSA Road Runners fell to New Mexico in the Gildan New Mexico Bow. 

Up Next For C-USA

Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. Navy (9-3), Dec. 23

Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3), Dec. 23

Hawai’i Bowl: Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-4), Dec. 24 

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army (6-5) vs. North Texas (5-7), Dec. 27