Going into the season, western kentucky quarterback bailey zappe was full of high expectations after three very prolific seasons at the fcs level. 14 games later, Zappe ends his final college season etching his name in the FBS record books for years to come. The Houston Baptist transfer broke FBS single-season records for passing touchdowns and passing yards in the Hilltoppers’ 59-38 win over Appalachian State in the 2021 Boca Raton Bowl.
“It’s really special to do this with these guys and the records mean a lot to me and especially with the goal of getting this bowl championship,” Zappe said after the game.
victory gives wku head coach tyson helton his second bowl victory in three seasons and his 23 wins in three seasons is the most prolific three-year stretch for the program since jeff’s 30 wins brohm between 2014 and 2016.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys, to have a day like this where we set national records, today is a great day to be a climber,” Helton said.
Helton’s team started as fast as they have all season, rushing for 74 yards in 1:46 on the opening drive of the game, with Zappe finding fellow Houston Baptist transfer jerreth sterns for a one-yard touchdown pass. Sterns’ 2021 campaign has also paid dividends of cosmic proportions for Helton, with the junior wide receiver rushing for 13 receptions for 184 yards and three touchdowns. on the season, he finishes with 150 receptions for 1,902 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Mountaineers, who entered the game looking for their 11th win of the year, were able to keep up with WKU early on as Duke Transfer Chase Brice drove his team 63 yards in six plays, culminating in a Malik Williams 36 sack. yard touchdown.
The app state defense, which entered the game allowing only 19.3 points per game, could never find its footing against the superior offensive dynamic. On the next offensive play, Zappe hit wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley for a 75-yard touchdown. The final score of the first quarter came when Brice found senior receiver Jalen Virgil racing down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown, tying the game at 14.
App State last led the contest midway through the second quarter when Brice connected with sophomore Dashaun Davis for a 33-yard touchdown, putting the Mountaineers ahead 21-17. But as has been the case all year, Zappe had no trouble responding, hitting tight end Joey Beljan in the middle of the field on a third-and-goal from the app state’s five-yard line to put Western ahead 24- twenty-one.
following a 28-yard mountaineer field goal by kicker chandler stanton, zappe tied burrow’s mark of 60 touchdown passes when he connected with sterns for a 10-yard touchdown, closing out the first half with wku ahead 31-24
The game’s biggest swing in momentum, and arguably any real chance that the state of the app will keep up with western kentucky, came in the Mountaineers’ early momentum in the second half. After driving inside WKU’s 35-yard line, the Cameroon People’s App State broker raced toward the 14-yard line but was stripped by Western Safety A.J. Brathwaite and the fumble was recovered by reserve defensive lineman Jacques Evans.
armed with the lead, west offensive coordinator zach kittley threw a surprise running play on the state of the app, with freshman running back noah whittington taking an 86-yard inside run play straight through From the heart of the Mountaineers defense, putting the Tops ahead 38-24 on the next app state drive, the Mountaineers went three and out, as the drive was destroyed by a brodric martin sack on third down. At the 5:56 mark of the game’s penultimate quarter, Zappe would break the burrow mark with a 2-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley.
“We were very aware of the records that were coming into the game,” Helton said. “Obviously the first goal is to win and some of the passing numbers are standard for us, but we were aware.”
State of App’s last significant score came when sophomore christian wells opened the next drive by catching a 62-yard shot from brice, but the mountaineering defense wasn’t well equipped for the pass attack western. Sterns caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Zappe with 2:42 remaining in the third.
for helton, the decision to leave his offense in the hands of the houston baptist trio of kittley, zappe and sterns paid off and gives the tops a season to remember.
“It’s so much more than football,” Sterns said. “We do everything together, so being able to do this together as a group means the world to me.”
zappe finished the contest 33 of 47 for 422 yards and six touchdowns. on the year, he finishes with 5,967 passing yards and a new fbs mark of 62 passing touchdowns.