The bowl tradition continues to grow at Western Kentucky and Georgia State, who will meet Saturday in the 22nd annual LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Western Kentucky (5-6), from Conference USA, will play its 30th postseason game. Over the past eight seasons the Hilltoppers are 4-2 in bowls and defeated Western Michigan last year in the First Responders Bowl.
Georgia State (5-4), from the Sun Belt Conference, will make its fourth bowl appearance in the program’s 11-year history. The Panthers have earned a bowl trip for the third time in four seasons under coach Shawn Elliott. They lost to Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl last year.
Georgia State and Western Kentucky played in the 2017 Cure Bowl in Orlando, with Georgia State winning 27-17 for its first bowl victory.
“Playing in the postseason, that’s always our No. 1 goal,” said Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton. “To have one more opportunity to try and get a win and send our guys off right, that’s pretty special.”
In 24 seasons as a Division I coach, Elliott has been a part of 19 teams that have reached a bowl game or the NCAA playoffs.
“I’m so proud of our players for their commitment and hard work to persevere through this season,” Elliott said. “We talk about doing things for the first time, and back-to-back bowl games is another first for our program.”
Western Kentucky has had trouble scoring this season — the Hilltoppers have averaged 18.8 points, last in Conference USA. Tyrrell Pigrome has thrown for 1,423 yards and nine touchdowns, with no interceptions, and has rushed for 328 yards and three TDs. Brayden Narveson, who is 13-for-14 on field goals and 24-for-24 on extra points, is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, an honor given annually to the nation’s best kicker.
Western Kentucky’s resume includes losses to Louisville, Liberty and BYU, but the Hilltoppers have won their past three games. They rank fifth in the conference in scoring defense (24.1). They lead Conference USA in pass defense, allowing 170.1 yards per game. The defense is led by all-conference choice DeAngelo Malone, a defensive end who has 65 tackles, six sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Georgia State had 14 players named to the All-Sun Belt Conference, including two first-team selections: left guard Shamarious Gilmore and kicker Noel Ruiz, a graduate transfer from North Carolina A&T.
Georgia State averages over 30 points a game behind quarterback Cornelious Brown, who has thrown for 2,046 yards and 14 touchdowns, and receiver Sam Pinckney, who has 44 catches for 753 yards and six touchdowns.
–Field Level Media
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