Dec 21, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Austin Reed (16) scrambles out the pocket against the South Alabama Jaguars during the first half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

WKU’s offense overwhelms South Alabama in New Orleans Bowl

Austin Reed threw for 497 yards and four touchdowns as Western Kentucky flew past South Alabama 44-23 at the New Orleans Bowl on Wednesday.

Western Kentucky led 31-3 at halftime thanks to its up-tempo offense and cruised to its third bowl victory in the past four years. Dalvin Smith caught six passes for 145 yards and a touchdown and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass for the Hilltoppers (9-5).

Malachi Corley had 11 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns for Western Kentucky, and Jaylen Hall added nine receptions for 138 yards and a score. Reed completed 36 of 55 passes and was intercepted once.

Carter Bradley finished 36 of 53 for 360 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions as South Alabama (10-3) failed to earn the program’s first bowl victory. The teams combined for 1,098 total yards, 677 by Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers scored 1:49 into the game when a wide-open Smith hauled in a 44-yard touchdown to conclude the opening drive. They went 80 yards in just 1:36 on their next possession, when Reed connected with Joey Beljan for a 27-yard score to make it 14-0.

Early in the second quarter, the Hilltoppers struck again using a double pass. Reed tossed the ball to Smith, who flicked it down the right sideline to Hall to make it 21-0. Cory Munson chipped in a 23-yard field goal with 9:32 remaining before halftime.

South Alabama had a shot at the end zone for the first time on its fifth drive, but Kaleb Oliver intercepted a wobbly pass by Bradley. The Jaguars’ Yam Banks struck back with a leaping, one-handed interception of Reed in the end zone minutes later.

Diego Guajardo’s 30-yard field goal got the Jaguars on the board with 1:38 before halftime, but Reed guided the Hilltoppers to the doorstep again. The Jaguars nearly kept them out of the end zone, but penalties on the defense allowed for an untimed down, and Reed shoveled a pass to Corley on a jet motion play for a 1-yard touchdown.

Reed had compiled 329 passing yards and three touchdowns by halftime.

South Alabama engineered its first touchdown drive to start the second half, with DJ Thomas-Jones catching a 10-yarder to make it 31-10.

Western Kentucky needed just 1:38 to score its final touchdown, however. Corley danced into the end zone on a wide-open 39-yard catch late in the third quarter.

The Hilltoppers were held to two 31-yard field goals the rest of the way. For South Alabama, running back La’Damian Webb caught a 5-yard TD pass late in the third and Devin Voisin (11 catches, 153 yards) grabbed an over-the-shoulder, 12-yard score with 6:01 to play.

–Field Level Media

Auburn Tigers interim head coach Carnell "Cadillac" Williams celebrates after the game as Auburn Tigers take on Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Auburn Tigers defeated Texas A&M Aggies 13-10.

Auburn aims to ride momentum vs. high-powered Western Kentucky

It was a heart-warming spectacle in Jordan-Hare Stadium after Auburn’s 13-10 win last week over Texas A&M.

After all, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams had just posted his first victory as a head coach.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak by the Tigers (4-6) and kept the team’s slim bowl chances alive.

Auburn will try to start a winning streak when it hosts Western Kentucky (7-4) on Saturday. Williams is 1-1 as the Tigers’ interim coach; he took over the job when Bryan Harsin was fired on Oct. 31.

Senior captain Derick Hall made Auburn’s victory over Texas A&M that much sweeter when he presented Williams, one of Auburn’s all-time greatest players, with a souvenir.

“Coach, we want to thank you for the sacrifices, you coming in and stepping in for this team,” Hall said. “You serving and believing in us. Every single day you come to work to see us get better and Auburn get better and get it back to where it needs to be. I know you say it isn’t all about you, but tonight we want to present you with the game ball.”

Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby each rushed for 121 yards to lead Auburn. Quarterback Robby Ashford completed only 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and a score.

The Tigers’ run game could prove problematic for a Western Kentucky defense that allowed 165 rushing yards in a 45-10 win over Rice last week.

But the Hilltoppers are rolling offensively. The team ranks fourth in the country in passing offense (336.3 yards per game) and is 15th in scoring offense at 37.9 points an outing.

Leading that offense is quarterback Austin Reed, who has passed for 3,550 yards and 31 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, and trails only Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. by 90 yards for the most passing yards in the country this season.

“We just play our brand of football and go out there and put points on the board,” Reed said.

His favorite target has been sophomore Malachi Corley, who has 70 receptions for 953 yards and seven touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Jarret Doege (2) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Well-traveled QB Jarret Doege enters transfer portal

Well-traveled quarterback Jarret Doege is reportedly back in the transfer portal for the second time in 2022.

He is leaving Western Kentucky as a graduate transfer less than two weeks before the season opener, 247Sports reported Monday.

Doege began his career at Bowling Green (2017-18) and played at West Virginia from 2019-21 before transferring to the Hilltoppers in January.

He has passed for 10,494 yards with 79 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in 46 career games.

Last season, he completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 3,048 yards, 19 TDs and 12 interceptions in 13 games for the Mountaineers.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2021; Boca Raton, Florida, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) attempts a pass against the Appalachian State Mountaineers during the first half in the 2021 Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Boca Raton Bowl: Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky top Appalachian State

Bailey Zappe threw for six touchdowns on a record-setting day as Western Kentucky wasn’t stopped often in a 59-38 victory against Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl on Saturday in Boca Raton, Fla.

Zappe threw for 422 yards by completing 33 of 47 passes without an interception.

He set Football Bowl Subdivision single-season records by finishing with 62 touchdown passes and 5,967 passing yards.

Jerreth Sterns caught three of the TD passes on his way to 13 catches for 184 yards. Mitchell Tinsley racked up 103 receiving yards on seven catches, with two resulting in touchdowns.

The Hilltoppers (9-5) also received 150 rushing yards on seven carries from Noah Whittington, who scored one touchdown.

Appalachian State (10-4) lost in a bowl game for the first time despite four touchdown throws from Chase Brice. He threw for 317 yards and was intercepted once.

Teammate Camerun Peoples gained 101 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Both teams compiled more than 600 yards of total offense, with Western Kentucky at 637 and Appalachian State at 609.

The Mountaineers held a 21-17 lead in the second quarter. Zappe threw two touchdown passes in the last seven minutes of the first half as Western Kentucky led 31-24 at the break.

Whittington’s 86-yard run opened the second-half scoring, and Zappe threw 2 yards to Tinsley as the margin grew to 45-24 with less than six minutes to play in the third quarter.

If there were snags for the Hilltoppers, they came with having to punt three times and missing a field goal.

Appalachian State was in a bowl for the seventh consecutive season since rising from the Football Championship Subdivision. The Mountaineers are 6-1 now.

Western Kentucky was in its eighth bowl in a 10-year span, improving to 5-3 in those games.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; West Point, New York, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Jerreth Sterns (8) runs for a touchdown against the Army Black Knights during the second half at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

WKU invites Appalachian State to shootout at Boca Raton Bowl

A clash of styles stands as a key plot line in Boca Raton Bowl on Saturday.

Appalachian State, which holds impressive defensive numbers, takes on offensive juggernaut Western Kentucky in Boca Raton, Fla., as bowl season gets underway this weekend.

It’s a chance to finish the season on a high note — and perhaps bag a few records — after disappointing ends to the regular season.

Both teams lost in conference championship games to wind up in Florida.

Western Kentucky fell 49-41 to UTSA in the Conference USA title, while Appalachian State dropped a 24-16 decision to Louisiana in the Sun Belt Conference final.

“We’ll try to win 11 games this year,” Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark said. “Get ready for the bowl game and finish this season out the right way.”

Appalachian State (10-3) ranks second nationally with 109 tackles for loss. That unit will be challenged by Western Kentucky (8-5).

It has been a season of ups and downs for the Hilltoppers, who followed a four-game losing streak by winning seven straight prior to the defeat in the conference title game.

“No matter what happens, I’m going to look back on this season and be really proud of these men,” Hilltoppers coach Tyson Helton said.

Two of the top active receivers in the Football Bowl Subdivision will be on the field. Western Kentucky’s Jerreth Sterns ranks first with 357 career receptions and Appalachian State’s Thomas Hennigan is third with 237. Sterns, a transfer from Houston Baptist, is a second-team All-American.

The Hilltoppers are pass-happy, with quarterback Bailey Zappe leading the country with 5,545 passing yards and 56 touchdown throws. That puts him 289 passing yards and five TD tosses away from setting single-season FBS records.

“That’s a good combination. That’s a great duo,” Helton said of Zappe and Sterns. “A very talented group of guys (on offense), not only Bailey and Jerreth, it’s a lot of other targets like a Mitchell Tinsley, Malachi Corley and a Daewood Davis.”

Zappe, a graduate transfer from Houston Baptist, was selected Conference USA’s Most Valuable Player.

Appalachian State will look to slow down the Hilltoppers with players such as linebacker D’Marco Jackson, the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year.

On offense for the Mountaineers, Hennigan should extend his FBS record of career starts to 65. Camerun Peoples has a Sun Belt-leading 14 rushing touchdowns.

But more important, this might be Peoples’ best time of the year. Last season, he set an NCAA bowl record with 317 rushing yards in the New Orleans Bowl against North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. He also tied the all-time bowl record with five touchdowns. However, Appalachian State’s leading rusher this year is Nate Noel with 1,076 yards.

Appalachian State is 6-0 all-time in bowls. No other program with more than two appearances has an unblemished bowl record.

This marks Western Kentucky’s eighth bowl in a 10-season span. The Hilltoppers are 4-3 in bowls.

Appalachian State has defeated four bowl-bound teams (Coastal Carolina, East Carolina Georgia State, Marshall) this season.

“I’m very proud of our program and proud of where we are,” Clark said.

Appalachian State’s first trip to Florida this season resulted in a 25-23 loss at Miami in September.

Appalachian State is 4-1 against Western Kentucky, though the teams haven’t met since the 2000 Division I-AA playoffs, when the Mountaineers won.

Sun Belt teams are 10-3 in bowl games vs. Conference USA teams since 2012.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III runs the ball against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Saturday, Oct. 02, 2021.

Msu Wku

No. 17 Michigan State races past Western Kentucky

Kenneth Walker III scored three rushing touchdowns in the first half, Jayden Reed returned a punt for a touchdown for the second straight game, and No. 17 Michigan State defeated Western Kentucky 48-31 in East Lansing, Mich. on Saturday.

Walker gained 126 yards on 24 carries. Reed also caught four passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Payton Thorne passed for 327 yards, and Jalen Nailor caught eight passes for 128 yards.

Bailey Zappe completed 46 of 64 passes for 488 yards and three touchdowns for the Hilltoppers (1-3). Jerreth Sterns caught 17 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.

Michigan State (5-0) led 42-16 at halftime.

Reed electrified the crowd less than two minutes into the game when he weaved around defenders, cut toward the right sideline and raced into the end zone on his 88-yard return.

Reed caught a 46-yard pass after Michigan State forced a punt. Walker finished off the seven-play, 80-yard drive with a 5-yard run.

Brayden Narveson put Western Kentucky on the board with a 37-yard field goal.

Reed’s second 46-yard reception of the game accounted for the Spartans’ third touchdown of the quarter.

The Hilltoppers cut Michigan State’s lead to 21-10 on a 4-yard pass from Zappe to Joey Beljan.

Narveson kicked a 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

Walker dove into the pylon on another 5-yard score with 9:10 left in the half to make it 28-13. Narveson’s third field goal of the half came from 35 yards out.

Walker carried six times on the Spartans’ next scoring drive, reaching the end zone on a 3-yard carry with 2:39 left in the half.

Thorne’s 12-yard run with 41 seconds left capped Michigan State’s first-half eruption.

Western Kentucky came up one yard short on a 17-play drive in the third quarter.

Michigan State’s Matt Coghlin made a 21-yard field goal in the final minute of the quarter.

Zappe pulled the Hilltoppers within 14 on touchdown passes to Sterns (28 yards) and Beljan (one yard) during the fourth quarter.

Coghlin added a 20-yard field goal with 4:49 left.

–Field Level Media

Indiana Hoosiers place kicker Charles Campbell (93) celebrates a go-ahead field goal in the third quarter of the NCAA football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The Bearcats won 38-24.

Cincinnati Bearcats At Indiana Hoosiers Football

Indiana does just enough to defeat Western Kentucky

Stephen Carr rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Michael Penix added a season-high 373 yards passing, lifting Indiana to a 33-31 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday night in Bowling Green, Ky.

Up 26-24, Indiana put together a 14-play, 86-yard drive in the fourth quarter, capped by Carr’s 1-yard touchdown with 4:27 remaining. The Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) bounced back from a home loss to Cincinnati with a critical road win before the start of Big Ten play.

Bailey Zappe passed for 365 yards and two scores for Western Kentucky (1-2), which played before a record 25,071 fans at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Indiana scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the game for touchdown. Carr completed an 11-play, 79-yard drive with a 1-yard run, putting Indiana up 7-0. Then, Penix capped an 11-play, 81-yard possession with a 1-yard run, extending Indiana’s lead to 14-0 with 5:02 left in the half.

Western Kentucky responded by putting together a long touchdown drive on its second offensive series, with Adam Cofield capping a 15-play, 77-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run with 14:27 left in the second quarter.

Indiana rebuilt its lead to 20-7 with 46- and 37-yard field goals from Charles Campbell. Western Kentucky then put together a seven-play, 72-yard drive late in the first half, with Zappe connecting with wide receiver Daewood Davis to cut Indiana’s lead to 20-14 with 55 seconds before intermission.

Indiana still had enough time to drive down to the Western Kentucky 7-yard line, sparked by two completions from Penix and a 21-yard run from Carr. But after two failed pass attempts in the end zone, the Hoosiers settled for a 25-yard field goal from Campbell as time expired, putting Indiana up 23-14 at halftime.

Western Kentucky cut Indiana’s lead to 23-21 in the third quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Zappe to Dalvin Smith.

Campbell’s 48-yard field goal extended Indiana’s lack back to 26-21, but Western Kentucky responded with a 34-yard field goal from Brayden Narveson, cutting the Indiana lead to 26-24 with 5:53 left in the third quarter.

Indiana starting wide receiver/punt returner D.J. Matthews left the game in the first half with an apparent leg injury after recovering his own muff on a Western Kentucky punt.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen reacts with punter James Evans (94) during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana looks to get back on track vs. Western Kentucky

Indiana hasn’t gotten off to the start it wanted in 2021.

The Hoosiers (1-2) are looking to get back on track Saturday night at Western Kentucky (1-1) in a non-conference game in Bowling Green, Ky.

Indiana turned the ball over four times and went just 3-of-6 in red zone chances in a 38-24 home loss last Saturday against No. 8 Cincinnati. Overall, the Hoosiers have turned the ball over seven times in three games, with all seven turnovers coming in its two losses to Cincinnati and Iowa.

“We talk about protecting the football at a high level, and we’ve not done that in the two games that we’ve lost,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said.

Indiana starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has thrown a Big Ten-high six interceptions after throwing just four in seven games last season.

“Just want to take care of the ball, not put the ball in jeopardy,” said Penix, who threw three interceptions against Cincinnati last Saturday.

“Just want to make sure that I’m being smart with my reads and just being confident in all of my throws.”

Western Kentucky boasts the nation’s top pass offense (456.5 yards per game) and best offense in the country converting on third downs (11-16, 68.8 percent). The Hilltoppers are coming off a 38-35 loss at Army.

Western Kentucky starting quarterback Bailey Zappe has thrown for 859 yards on the season, with 10 TD passes against only two interceptions. Zappe earned Conference USA Co-Player of the Week honors after throwing for 435 yards and three TDs versus Army.

A sellout crowd is expected at 23,776-seat Houchens industries-L.T. Smith Stadium, where Western Kentucky fans will be encouraged to wear black in a black-out game in a nationally televised night game.

“Indiana is a really good football team,” Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton said. “You look at them across the board, all three phases, they’ve got players everywhere. Coach Allen does a fantastic job. They play hard, so it’s going to take everything we’ve got to try to go win this game. But really excited to have this opportunity to play in front of our home crowd in a great, great atmosphere.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte 49ers head coach Will Healy during the first quarter of the game against the Charlotte 49ers at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday’s Western Kentucky-Charlotte game canceled

A rare Tuesday morning college football game has fallen victim to a not-so-rare 2020 problem.

Western Kentucky’s game at Charlotte was canceled as a result of COVID-19 testing within the 49ers’ program.

It was originally scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 28, before being postponed to Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. ET.

“We had high hopes that we would be able to play,” Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill said in a statement released Monday. “We are disappointed for both teams and appreciate WKU and Conference USA for having worked with us to accommodate the unusual game date and time.

“We’ll continue to follow the advice of our medical professionals as they guide us to the safest outcomes for our student-athletes, coaches and staff. We also recognize that having not played a game since Oct. 31 creates uncertainty for everyone involved. We will continue to make decisions with our student-athletes’ desires and best interests at heart.”

The schedule for Charlotte (2-3, 2-1 C-USA) has been in constant flux this season. Games against North Carolina, Georgia State, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, Gardner-Webb and Marshall were either canceled or postponed. The 49ers have not played since a 53-19 loss at Duke on Oct. 31.

Tuesday’s game was the last one on the schedule for the Hilltoppers (4-6, 3-3).

Hill said the status of Charlotte’s game this Saturday against Florida International will be determined following the results of upcoming tests at both schools.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte 49ers head coach Will Healy celebrates a turnover with his players during the first half against the Charlotte 49ers at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte, Western Kentucky move game to a weekday morning

Charlotte and Western Kentucky will play a rare Tuesday morning game to give the 49ers a chance to clear COVID-19 protocols.

The Conference USA game was scheduled for Saturday and will instead be played Dec. 1 at 10:30 a.m. in Charlotte. The 49ers would not have been able to play this weekend, the school said in a news release on Monday.

“We appreciate WKU working with us and the league office to make this game happen,” Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill said. “This has been a challenging season for our team, and we are grateful for each and every opportunity we have to compete. It took some creativity — but we are willing to look at all options to reward our student-athletes for all the work they continue to put forth.”

This is the second game that Charlotte (2-3, 2-1 C-USA) has rescheduled because of the pandemic. Games against North Carolina, Gardner-Webb, Georgia State and Middle Tennessee weren’t played earlier this year, and last weekend’s game against Marshall was called off because of the outbreak in the Charlotte program.

The Hilltoppers (4-6, 3-3) have avoided any COVID-19 schedule changes and will end their season against Charlotte.

–Field Level Media