College Football

Boca Bowl between Memphis and Western Kentucky promises to be high powered offense match


This story was compiled and written by University of Connecticut journalism students Emily Durgin and Kevin Bostiga, with information and statistics provided by ESPN, the University of Memphis sports information department, the Western Kentucky football website and The American Athletic website.

The high-powered offenses of the University of Memphis and Western Kentucky football programs are Boca-bound, the latter without a captain of their ship after WKU head coach Jeff Brohm took a job at Purdue the day after receiving the invite.

They’ll play in the Boca Raton Bowl at 6 p.m. on Dec. 20 at FAU Stadium (ESPN). Brohm will be leaving his team at the hands of their defensive coordinator and now interim head coach, Nick Holt.

Memphis and Western Kentucky will meet for the first time since 1956. The two have met five times in football history (2-2-1). All five games have been shutouts, with the Tigers winning the most recent meeting 42-0.

This year’s meeting in Boca Raton will feature two of the nation’s most dominant offenses and could be one of the highest-scoring games of the bowl season. Western Kentucky is ranked second in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring (45.1 points per game) and seventh in total offense (51.4 years per game). The Memphis Tigers finished 17th in the country in scoring (39.5 points per game) and 33rd in total offense.

The Tigers have nine total bowl appearances and their last was in 2015 where they loss to Auburn (31-10) in the Birmingham Bowl. The Hilltoppers have appeared in five bowls and their last was in 2015 with a victory over South Florida (45-35) in the Miami Beach Bowl.

Memphis won eight games in Mike Norvell’s first regular season as a head coach. The Tigers (8-4. 5-3 American Conference) will be playing in a bowl game for a third consecutive season and are in the midst of the strongest three-year stretch in program history. The Tigers closed out their regular-season with a 48-44 victory over the then-No. 21 Houston, Norvell’s first win over a ranked opponent.

“That last game against Houston absolutely blew me away,” Boca Raton Bowl Executive Director Doug Mosley said on bowl invitation conference call. “I knew that the Tigers were the team that we wanted to have down to this game.”

Quarterback Riley Ferguson has completed 225 of his 400 attempts for 3,326 yards, throwing 28 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. and wide receiver Anthony Miller (84 catches, 1,283 yards, 11 TD) lead the Tiger’s high-powered offense, according to NCAA statistics. Jonathan Cook (81 tackles) and first-team all-conference selection. Genard Avery (five sacks), are key pieces in their defense that forced 28 turnovers in the regular season.

Memphis has viewed Boca Raton as the most preferred postseason destination, according to Athletic director Tom Bowen.

“We’re excited,” Bowen said. “Our fan base is excited. My phone’s been blowing up all day. Everybody’s looking forward to coming down (to Boca Raton) and being a part of it.”

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are entering the bowl game with a 10-3 overall record, winning seven of the eight games in C-USA. With an average margin of victory of 31.3 points in

their last seven wins, the Hilltoppers are looking to keep their momentum going in absence of their former head coach, Brohm, who took a $20 million position as head coach of Purdue on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Brohm went 30-10 at WKU and 2-0 in bowl games.

Western Kentucky will look to continue their flourishing offense, led by quarterback Mike White and running back Anthony Wales. White had 260 completions on 386 attempts, with only six interceptions in 13 games. With an exceptional completion percentage of 67.4, and an impressive team average of 336.8 yards per game, the Hilltoppers have a trustworthy arm at the helm.

Western Kentucky possesses rushing prowess with running back Anthony Wales. Totaling a net of 1376 yards on the season in 202 attempts in the 12 games he played this season, according to the Western Kentucky Football website. Averaging 114.7 yards per game and 6.8 yards per rush, Wales presents a very real threat to Memphis.

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