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App State Going Bowling in Boca

Last Updated on December 5, 2021 3:15 pm

BOONE, N.C. — App State will head to the Sunshine State for its seventh straight bowl appearance.

The Mountaineers are going bowling in Boca.

The winner of double-digit games and a Sun Belt Conference East Division title under second-year head coach Shawn Clark, App State (10-3) will play in the Boca Raton Bowl in south Florida against high-scoring, pass-happy Conference USA runner-up WKU (8-5) on Saturday, Dec. 18.

The game played in FAU Stadium will kick off at 11 a.m. and air on ESPN.

Information on ticket availability will be finalized in the coming days.

Since making its FBS debut in 2014, App State has earned a bowl berth in each of its seven postseason-eligible seasons, which is an all-time record for consecutive bowl berths after moving up to the FBS level. App State has an FBS-best 6-0 bowl record and is the only FBS program with no losses or ties in more than two appearances.

The Mountaineers, who started their bowl streak with three wins against MAC teams, will be facing a Conference USA opponent for the fourth straight year. They beat Middle Tennessee and UAB in back-to-back New Orleans Bowl appearances in 2018 and 2019 before defeating North Texas in the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl. Last year, Camerun Peoples rushed for a bowl-record 317 yards and five touchdowns in the 56-28 win against the Mean Green.

The Mountaineers will be making their 24th national television appearance in their last 41 games and playing for the 53rd time on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. App State is 12-7 all-time on ESPN with a win earlier this season against Marshall.

The Dec. 18 bowl matchup will pit one the nation’s top Group of Five defenses against the nation’s top passing attack.

The Mountaineers are No. 2 nationally with 109 tackles for loss (8.2 per game) while also ranking in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense (No. 16, 19.3 points), total defense (No. 18, 325.5 yards), pass efficiency defense (No. 12, 114.7), interceptions (No. 10, 15), defensive touchdowns (No. 6, four), red zone defense (No. 15, 73.7 percent) and rushing defense (No. 19, 118.8).

App State also reached the Sun Belt title game for the third time behind a balanced offense that averages 34.2 points, 240.7 passing yards and 187.7 rushing yards per game.

Led by third-year head coach Tyson Helton, WKU entered the Conference USA title game with a seven-game winning streak before losing 49-41 against a UTSA team that improved to 12-1. FBS passing leader Bailey Zappe threw for 577 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, and WKU ranks second nationally with a 43.1 scoring average.

The Hilltoppers have performed well since starting 1-4 against a difficult schedule, with a 1-0 opening being followed by consecutive losses against Army (38-35 on the road), Indiana (33-31), a ranked Michigan State team (48-31) and UTSA (52-46 in their first meeting). The seven-game winning streak in league play involved victories by 23, 15, 32, 27, 21, 35 and 32 points, capped by a 53-21 win at Marshall.

Zappe, star receiver Jerreth Sterns and two other receivers joined offensive coordinator Zach Kittley in leaving Houston Baptist for WKU following the 2020 season. Kittley coached Patrick Mahomes in an “Air Raid” offense at Texas Tech for three seasons.

Zappe has thrown for 5,545 yards (426.5 per game) with 56 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 69.2 completion percentage this season. He needs 289 passing yards and five touchdown passes to set single-season FBS records.

App State’s Thomas Hennigan ranks third among active FBS players with 237 career catches at the college level, and WKU’s Jerreth Sterns is No. 1 at 356 college catches with FBS highs of 137 catches for 1,718 yards in his debut season with the Hilltoppers. The 5-foot-9 Sterns has 41 more catches than the second-highest FBS total this season and has scored 14 receiving touchdowns.

Another receiver, Mitchell Tinsley, has 80 catches for 1,299 yards and 12 touchdowns.

App State will be playing a game in the state of Florida for the second time this year but just the third time in the previous 58 seasons. Before a 25-23 loss at Miami on Sept. 11, the Mountaineers’ last visit to the Sunshine State was for a 2010 game at Florida.

FAU Stadium, which sits on the campus of Florida Atlantic University, opened 10 years ago and has a capacity close to 30,000.

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