Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 03:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers looks to pass the ball during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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College football records highest-ever scoring season in 2016

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The average college football team topped 30 points per game for the first time in the game’s history, according to data compiled and released by the NCAA.

The typical team scored 30.04 points per game this fall, busting the record of 29.7 points per game per team set last fall. The Big 12 led all conferences with an average of 33.58 points per game. Western Kentucky led all teams with 45.5 points per game.

Consequently, the 2016 season also set the record for the longest average game time in FBS history.

As Dennis Dodd for CBS Sports notes, this is the seventh time since 2000 the average scoring record has been broken. That same record was broken 19 times in the previous 63 seasons.

This season also saw records broken for average total offense (417.5 yards per game), yards per play (5.83), yards per pass attempt (7.39) and touchdowns per game (3.82).

However, teams did average 182.99 rushing yards per game, the highest number since 1979.

Steve Spurrier Jr., new HC’s dad added to WKU coaching staff

Steve Spurrier Jr.
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As Mike Sanford assembles his first Western Kentucky staff, he’s officially added one very familiar familial face along with a side-order of name recognition.

Following up on speculation that had been growing for the last week or so, Sanford announced the addition of the first three on-field assistants to his WKU coaching staff. Included in that group is Mike Sanford Sr., the father of the head coach, as well as Steve Spurrier Jr., the son of Florida and South Carolina coaching legend.

Sanford Sr., who stepped down as the head coach at FCS Indiana State after a four-year run earlier this month, will serve as his son’s special teams coordinator and running backs coach, while Spurrier Jr., director of high school recruiting and offensive specialist at Oklahoma this past season, will coach quarterbacks as well as hold the title of assistant head coach.  The elder Sanford was also the head coach at UNLV from 2005-09.  Spurrier Jr. had been an assistant on his father’s South Carolina staff for 11 seasons.

The third hire is Jami DeBerry as safeties coach as well as recruiting coordinator. DeBerry had spent the past four seasons on the elder Sanford’s ISU staff.

“I am thrilled to be able to add not only three outstanding football coaches but exceptional motivators and mentors to our coaching staff,” Sanford said in a statement. “All three coaches come from winning pedigrees and understand what is required to achieve success at the highest levels with backgrounds as national champions and consistent bowl contenders.

“They will also be great representatives of WKU in the community and on the recruiting trail.”

Sanford still has six positions on his initial Hilltoppers staff left to fill.

Anthony Wales runs Western Kentucky past Memphis in Boca Raton Bowl

Western Kentucky running back Anthony Wales finds a gap between Memphis defenders during the Boca Raton Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, in Boca Raton, Fla. (Adam Sacasa/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
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The Boca Raton Bowl boiled down, essentially, to one statistic: the ability of Memphis to stop the run. The Tigers ranked a respectable 44th in the country in rushing defense over their eight victories… and a dreadful 125th in their four losses, allowing an average of 372 yards and five touchdowns on 6.7 yards per carry.

Memphis couldn’t stop the run on Tuesday night, and Western Kentucky had its way with the Tigers, ending the best 2-year run in program history with a 51-31 victory.

Playing in his final collegiate game, Anthony Wales recorded the best night of his career. The senior rushed 35 times for a career-high 245 yards and three touchdowns, essentially breaking open what was a tight, 21-17 game himself. Wales’s first scoring dash came at the end of the first half put WKU up by 11 — Memphis would climb no closer than 13 the rest of the night —  his second score pushed the game into blowout territory and his final score, a 1-yard jaunt around right end with 2:18 remaining, ended any hope of a Memphis comeback.

Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, playing back home in South Florida, was hyper-efficient as usual. White came into the night averaging 10.4 yards per attempt — which would be the most in FBS over the past three years if not for Baker Mayfield‘s 11.1 average — and improved upon that absurd number by completing 20-of-30 passes for 336 yards (that’s 11.2 yards per attempt) with three touchdowns against one interception. And White actually threw four touchdowns but had this beauty taken away by scoring technicality.

That’s offensive tackle Forrest Lamp finding the end zone on what was scored a 9-yard run, giving WKU a 14-10 lead it would not relinquish.

Memphis (8-5) struggled to run the ball, averaging only 2.5 yards on 31 carries, but Riley Ferguson still got his, completing 25-of-43 passes for 372 yards with four touchdowns and one pick.

The win closes a 2-year run under head coach Jeff Brohm — who has already left for Purdue; Nick Holt served as interim head coach on Tuesday — in which the Hilltoppers (11-3) posted a 23-5 overall record, a 17-1 mark against Conference USA competition, two C-USA titles and two bowl victories over American opponents. Those five losses: to No. 5 LSU in 2015, to No. 1 Alabama earlier this season, and losses of three, one, and three points.

What comes next will fall on the shoulders of new head coach Mike Sanford. Considering the trajectory of this program from Willie Taggart to Bobby Petrino to Brohm and now to Sanford, whatever comes next should still be pretty darn good.

Western Kentucky and Memphis in Boca Raton Bowl shootout

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Riley Ferguson #4 of the Memphis Tigers throws the ball during the first half of a game against the Tulane Green Wave at Yulman Stadium on October 14, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Someone wake up Morty Seinfeld because we’ve got a barnburner in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Western Kentucky holds a 28-17 lead over Memphis and, as the score suggests, each defense has had trouble getting a handle on the opposing offense.

After a three-and-out to open the game, Western Kentucky scored touchdowns on its next four possessions. The Hilltoppers got touchdown passes from Mike White to Stevie Donatell, offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (though this technically went down as a run) and Nicholas Norris and a 2-yard plunge from Anthony Wales.

Western Kentucky had a chance to blow the game open just before the halftime horn. After accepting the ball at their own 15 with 35 seconds left, Western Kentucky appeared to set up to take a knee but instead handed to Wales, who ran mostly unimpeded down the left sideline for 53 yards. White threw to the end zone on the next play but was intercepted in the end zone.

White hit 13-of-18 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while Wales rushed 15 times for 144 yards and a score.

Memphis scored on two long touchdown passes from Riley Ferguson and, with two field goal attempts from Jake Elliott (one good, one a rare miss), the Tigers have only been truly stopped on a three-and-out to open the game and a four-and-out to close the half. Ferguson has hit 14-of-22 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, while five Tigers have rushed 16 times for 66 yards.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 20 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Anthony Wales #20 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers rushes against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which is a little thin volume-wise for the second consecutive day but could prove to be a very entertaining single-game fare.

WHO: Memphis (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (10-3)
WHAT: The 3rd Boca Raton Bowl
WHERE: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Western Kentucky ended the 2016 regular season as Conference USA champs, winning eight of their last nine and scoring at least 44 points in every single one of those games. The Hilltoppers scored 50 or more in six of those contests.  Memphis, meanwhile, allowed at least 42 points in four of its last six games; you see where this is going, right?  This stand-alone Tuesday night bowl game has all of the makings of a defense-optional affair with offensive fireworks as far as the eye can see.  To further that point: WKU scored 10 points in a loss to top-ranked Alabama; the only teams to put more on the scoreboard against the Crimson Tide in the regular season were Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Auburn.  Both teams had to replace prolific quarterbacks this offseason — Brandon Doughty for WKU, Paxton Lynch for the U of M — and each of the successors were more than respectable, with Mike White throwing for 4,027 yards and 34 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers, Riley Ferguson 3,326 and 28 for the Tigers.  Don’t sleep on Anthony Wales, though, as the WKU running back ran for 1,376 yards this season (6.8 ypc) and whose 24 rushing touchdowns were second nationally to Navy’s Will Worth‘s 25.  Hell, he averaged exactly four yards a carry against a ‘Bama defense that gave up just 2.03 yards per carry on the season, far and away the best figure at this level of football.  Speaking of running the ball, the Hilltoppers were fourth in the country in stopping it, giving up just 99.1 yards per game.  Aerially?  That same defense was 11oth in the FBS in giving up 268.7 passing yards per game.  Again, almost every single sign is pointing toward a shootout.
THE LINE: Memphis, +5
THE PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 48, Memphis 44