First Responder Bowl – Dec 30, 2019: WKU vs Western Michigan

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8–4) vs Western Michigan Broncos (7-5)

***

WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS | CONFERENCE USA

Coach:  Tyson Helton

Western Kentucky Players to watch:

**Sophomore DE DeAngelo Malone  (6-4/235)

Photo: Hilltoppers Athletics

DeAngelo Malone has enjoyed a breakout campaign in his third year on The Hill. He led the league’s #2 scoring defense in tackles-for-loss with 20.5 and sacks with 11. He also finished second on the team with 90 total tackles.

**Sophomore DE Juwuan Jones  (6-3/270)

The Hilltoppers other defensive end, Juwuan Jones, has 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 6.5 sacks on the season, building on his 2018 FWAA Freshman All-American campaign. In 2018, Jones made WKU history, setting a program FBS era record (dating back to 2009) by a freshman with five sacks while becoming the first freshman defensive lineman in Hilltopper history to earn All-American honors.

*Junior SS Antwon Kincade  (5-11/195)

Kincade, a safety from Valdosta, Ga., is tied for first on the team with two interceptions, tied for third with five pass breakups and ranks fourth in total tackles (78), solo tackles (41) and assisted tackles (37) while adding three tackles-for-loss on the season. Kincade also owns the seventh-best PFF overall rating in the nation among safeties at 89.1, while his 91.1 run defense rating is tied for first among FBS safeties.

*Junior OG Jordan Meredith  (6-2/300)

Meredith, a guard from Bowling Green, Ky., also rates out near the top of his position via PFF. He ranks fifth among FBS guards with a 79.3 overall rating, while ranking second with an 89.3 pass block rating and tying for seventh with a 79.2 run block rating. Meredith is also part of a WKU offensive line that owns the top pass block rating in the nation with a PFF grade of 89.8.

Senior QB Ty Storey  (6-2/215)

Storey, transferred from Arkansas to WKU in February. He is a native of Charleston, Arkansas, which is just 80 miles south of Fayetteville. After an illustrious prep career at Charleston High School, Storey spent the first four years with the Razorbacks, making nine total starts at Arkansas in 2018. When Arkansas head coach Chad Morris chose to bring in SMU grad-transfer Ben Hicks in January, Storey decided he would transfer to another university for his final year. He chose Western Kentucky.

He sat on the sidelines for three games after finishing second to redshirt junior Steven Duncan in the initial race for the WKU starting quarterback job. Storey started the fourth game of the season, when Duncan injured his foot. The seasoned veteran has used his strong arm and elusiveness to guide WKU to a winning record and possible bowl birth.He really put himself on the map in Week 11 with an impressive blowout win (45-19) over his old team Arkansas. After that victory, Storey was voted the Manning Award Quarterback of the Week. Note, that’s the same week Joe Burrow beat Alabama, but Storey’s performance vs Arkansas won the Award. He’s put himself back on scout’s radar and has positioned himself well heading towards the post-season.

“It’s been one of the more fun years to be a part of,” Storey said. “A lot of it is the guys, the coaching staff, everyone, winning on top of that. It’s a feeling you wish everyone could feel. How close we’ve come together throughout the year. Yeah, we’ve had some ups and downs and everything, but at the end of the day it’s made us all closer and realize that there’s something bigger than just individual people.”

***

WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS | MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

Coach:  Tim Lester

Western Michigan Players to watch:

Senior RB LaVante Bellamy  (5-9/190)

QB Jon Wassink runs and RPO with star running back LaVante Bellamy.

Senior running back LeVante Bellamy, the nation’s rushing touchdown leader with 23 scores, earned overall MAC MVP honors and was tabbed the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.

In addition to his NCAA-leading 23 rushing touchdowns, Bellamy ranks fourth in the nation with 1,412 yards this season, and the Indianapolis native has helped WMU rank second in the MAC in total offense (457.2 yards per game) and third in scoring (34.2 points per game).

*Junior MLB Treshaun Hayward  (6-1/225)

Junior linebacker Treshaun Hayward was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Hayward’s rise was very much unexpected, as the 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker wasn’t even a starter for the Broncos until Week 3. His breakout junior season included 132 tackles, 10.5 stops for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

“What makes Tre unique is he’s so physical, and he’s not a big ‘Rah, Rah’ guy,” WMU defensive coordinator Lou Esposito said. “It’s almost like he’s a silent assassin…”

Senior TE Giovanni Ricci  (6-3/238)

In 43 career games as a Bronco, Ricci has totaled 92 receptions for 1,083 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 2019 season has been highlighted by a career-high 105 receiving yards on eight catches at Syracuse and two-touchdown performances against Monmouth in the season opener and at Ohio last week. Ricci has topped the 50-yard receiving plateau six times in 11 games this fall.A native of Loveland, Ohio, Ricci ranks third within the Mid-American Conference in third-down receptions (15) and third in catches resulting in a first down (29). Ricci’s team-high 611 receiving yards are the third most in the MAC.

Senior OC Luke Juriga  (6-4/295)

Juriga was a First Team All-MAC player last season. He started all 13 games for the Broncos in 2018, including leading the team in snaps played at 1,056. He helped pave the way for a Bronco rushing attack that ranked 33rd in the nation last year. For the 2019 season, Juriga switched from guard to center, looking to pave the way for one of the MAC’s most explosive players, LeVante Bellamy.

**Sophomore CB Patrick Lupro  (5-10/185)

Lupro, from Belleville, Mich., took over for D’Wayne Eskridge following the latter’s injury at Syracuse and has excelled, totaling 57 tackles, 4.0 TFL, one fumble recovery, seven pass breakups and three interceptions. Lupro, who finished 2018 with 12 tackles in 12 games played, ranks tied for 11th in the MAC with his seven pass breakups and tied for fifth with his trio of INTs, recorded in consecutive home games versus Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Bowling Green.

***

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl 
Western Kentucky 23, Western Michigan 20
Gerald J. Ford Stadium
University Park, Texas
Dec 30, 2019 | 12:30 p.m. | ESPN 

***

2018 SERVPRO First Responder Bowl 
Boston College vs. Boise State, canceled because of weather

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s