MOBILE, Ala. – The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and Georgia State Panthers are set to meet in the 22nd annual LendingTree Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 26 at 2:30 p.m., CT on ESPN. The game will be played at Ladd-Peeples Stadium in Mobile.
“The LendingTree Bowl is honored to be hosting a game this season and welcoming back Conference USA to the port city and continuing our relationship with the Sun Belt Conference in what promises to be an exciting matchup,” Jerry Silverstein, Lending Tree Bowl president, said. “We’d like to welcome the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Georgia State Panthers, both making their first appearance in the LendingTree Bowl.”
Georgia State (5-4, 4-4 Sun Belt) won three of its last four games to achieve a bowl game for the second straight year and third time in four seasons under head coach Shawn Elliott.
The Panthers are seeking their second bowl victory against the same WKU team that they defeated for their first bowl win, a 27-17 victory over the Hilltoppers in the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl in Elliott’s first season. In 24 seasons as a Division I coach, Elliott has been part of 19 teams that reached a bowl game or the NCAA playoffs.
GSU quarterback Cornelious Brown IV, the redshirt freshman from Birmingham, Ala., is second in the Sun Belt passing (227.3 yards per game) and total offense (256.3 ypg) while accounting for 21 TDs (14 passing, 7 rushing). He directs a GSU offense that averages nearly 33 points per game.
The Panther attack also features skill players like top receiver Sam Pinckney, a member of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List with 44 receptions for 753 yards and six touchdowns, running back Destin Coates, the No. 2 rusher in the Sun Belt with 81.5 yards per game and six touchdowns, and All-Sun Belt tight end Roger Carter (21 catches for 256 yards and four touchdowns), as well as a veteran offensive line led by three-time All-Sun Belt left guard Shamarious Gilmore.
Georgia State’s defense leads the Sun Belt and ranks No. 7 FBS with a school-record 32 sacks, led by outside linebacker Jordan Strachan, who is No. 2 in the nation with 9.0 sacks.
Over the last three games, the GSU defense held opponents to 18.3 points and 334.7 yards in wins over South Alabama (14 points, 324 yards) and Georgia Southern (24 points, 370 yards) and a three-point loss at App State (17 points, 310 yards).
Western Kentucky (5-6, 4-3 Conference USA) closed the season with three straight wins over Southern Miss, FIU and Charlotte. The Hilltoppers scored 37 points in each of its last two games, including a season-high 38 point in the win of FIU. WKU is one of 10 FBS teams to play 11-plus games this season.
For the second consecutive season, defensive coordinator Clayton White’s defense has been stellar. WKU ranks sixth in FBS with only 170.1 pass yards allowed per game. After the first game of the season at Louisville – in which WKU allowed 343 pass yards – the Hilltoppers have allowed only 152.8 pass yards on average over the past 10 games. Since that opening game, WKU has allowed more than 162 pass yards only three times and not allowed any pass play over 42 yards. The Hilltoppers lead FBS with 61 total pass breakups and 66 passes defended (61 pass breakups plus five interceptions. WKU also ranks 24th in total defense with an average of only 336.4 total yards allowed per game.
Defending C-USA Defensive Player of the Year defensive end DeAngelo Malone has once again been a major problem for opposing quarterbacks, as he leads the WKU defense with 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, eight quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Malone reached the 25-sack mark for his WKU career, which set WKU’s FBS Era record (since 2009) and ranks fourth among active FBS players. Not only is he a quarterback hunter, but a complete defender that covers the entire field – after leading FBS defensive linemen with 99 total tackles in 2019, Malone ranks second among FBS defensive linemen with 65 total tackles this season.
WKU is making its seventh all-time bowl appearance. The Hilltoppers made its bowl debut in the 2012 Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit. WKU won three straight bowl games from 2014-16. Western Kentucky lost to Georgia State in 2017 Auto Nation Cure Bowl. WKU defeated Western Michigan 23-20 in the 2019 First Responders Bowl.
For more information about the LendingTree Bowl, ticket information and more, visit lendingtreebowl.com, or call the LendingTree Bowl office (251-635-0011).
About the LendingTree Bowl
The Mobile Alabama based bowl game was founded in 1999 and has built a reputation of fielding some of the most competitive and exciting games of the bowl season, including record-breaking performances by future NFL standouts. The LendingTree Bowl is committed to showcasing the city of Mobile, providing educational and athletic opportunities to the community, and providing a cultural and exceptional bowl experience to collegiate student-athletes, administrators and fans.
About LendingTree, Inc.
LendingTree (NASDAQ: TREE) is the nation’s leading online marketplace that connects consumers with the choices they need to be confident in their financial decisions. LendingTree empowers consumers to shop for financial services the same way they would shop for airline tickets or hotel stays, by comparing multiple offers from a nationwide network of over 500 partners in one simple search and choosing the option that best fits their financial needs. Services include mortgage loans, mortgage refinances, auto loans, personal loans, business loans, student refinances, credit cards, insurance and more. Through the My LendingTree platform, consumers receive free credit scores, credit monitoring and recommendations to improve credit health. My LendingTree proactively compares consumers’ credit accounts against offers on our network and notifies consumers when there is an opportunity to save money. In short, LendingTree’s purpose is to help simplify financial decisions for life’s meaningful moments through choice, education and support. LendingTree, Inc. is headquartered in Charlotte, NC. For more information, please visit www.lendingtree.com.
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