WKU Hilltoppers football team receives bowl bid

Brian Davis/Franklin Favorite

WKU Hilltoppers' head football coach Tyson Helton (left) and Director of Athletics Todd Stewart (right) discussed WKU's bowl invitation to the SERVPRO First Responders Bowl to play the Western Michigan Broncos last Sunday afternoon at the Paul just Media Room at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The success of the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers' football season led to them accepting a bowl bid this past Sunday afternoon.

The Hilltoppers accept the invitation to play in the SERVPRO First Responders Bowl against the Western Michigan Broncos in Dallas, TX on Mon. Dec. 30 at 11:30 a.m.

"A year ago, we were having very different conversations. So, to be sitting here today with an 8-4 record and still another game to go," Hilltoppers Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said. "I can't say enough about the job Tyson (Helton) did this year. Just a phenomenal job of completely turning things around. He and his staff just came together and did a great job, and our players certainly deserve incredible credit for how hard they played all year long -- the togetherness they showed, the focus that they maintained -- and a bowl game's their reward. So, it's a very fitting reward for this team to have one more game. We're very excited about going to Dallas and being in the First Responder Bowl."

The Hilltoppers has earned bowl eligibility in eight of the past nine seasons, while making five bowl game appearances over that span. They have compiled a 3-2 record in those contests, collecting wins over Central Michigan in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl, South Florida in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl and Memphis in the 2016 Boca Raton Bowl; 2016.

The matchup between Western Kentucky and Western Michigan will mark the teams' 15th meeting in program history in a series that dates back to 1923. The two programs' last meeting goes all the way back to Nov. 1, 1947, where the Hilltoppers dropped a road contest to the Broncos.

"I think our guys will be really excited," Hilltoppers head football coach Tyson Helton said. "I know our players will have one more opportunity to try go to get a big bowl win. It's great that it's in Dallas. We'll get to play a good Western Michigan football team. It'll be a very challenging game for us, but it should be an exciting game as well. I know our guys will be looking forward to getting to practice and getting things going."

The Broncos are from the Mid-American Conference and finished with a record of 7-5 and 5-3 in conference play.

Offensively, Levante Bellamy with 1,486 yards rushing with 23 touchdowns on 248 carries. Jon Wassink has completed 222 of hos 371 pass attempts for 2,904 yards for 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He has three receivers that has at least 45 receptions or more. K. Mixon, Jr. leads the team with 48 receptions for 491 yards for two touchdowns with Skyy Moore having 48 receptions for 734 yards for three touchdowns and Giovanni Ricci also has 47 receptions for 622 yards for eight touchdowns.

Defensively, Treshaun Howard leads the team with 132 total tackles with Patrick Lupro leading the team with three interceptions and Drake Spears leads the team with two fumble recoveries. Ali Fayad leads the team with 14 total tackles for 64 loss of yards and with 6.5 sacks for 47 yards.

The bowl game will be nationally televised on ESPN and broadcasted on 1220 WFKN Franklin radio with broadcast time starting at 10:30 a.m. with kickoff at 11:30 a.m.

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