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Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe breaks NCAA records in Boca Raton Bowl

Hilltoppers defeat Appalachian State 59-38, hand Mountaineers first bowl loss
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers QB Bailey Zappe throws 6th TD in Boca Raton Bowl in 2021
Posted at 12:57 PM, Dec 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-18 17:52:33-05

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe made NCAA history Saturday in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Zappe completed 33-of-47 attempts for 422 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Hilltoppers to a 59-38 victory over Appalachian State in a shootout at FAU Stadium on the campus of Florida Atlantic University.

The fifth-year senior, who took advantage of an extra season of eligibility, broke the NCAA's single-season touchdown and passing records in the final game of his collegiate career.

"Our main goal was to come into this game … was to get this championship, and we were able to do that and also break those records, so it makes it that much better," Zappe said.

Zappe's 10-yard touchdown pass -- his fourth of the half -- to Jerreth Sterns in the final minute of the second quarter was his 60th of the season, tying the NCAA single-season touchdown record set by former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.

He broke the record on Western Kentucky's second possession of the second half with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Tinsley.

Three plays before tying the touchdown record, Zappe also broke the NCAA single-season passing record with a 43-yard pass to Sterns. He finished the game with 5,967 passing yards and 62 passing touchdowns on the season.

"To have the game that we played and to be able to break those records with Bailey on our team, we couldn't write a better story," Western Kentucky head coach Tyson Helton said.

The teams essentially traded scores throughout the first half as Western Kentucky led 31-24, but the Hilltoppers pulled away in the second.

Appalachian State (10-4) got the ball first after the break, but running back Camerun Peoples fumbled and Western Kentucky defensive end Jaques Evans recovered. Western Kentucky running back Noah Whittington ran 86 yards into the end zone on the very next play, putting the Hilltoppers ahead 38-24.

Appalachian State Mountaineers receiver Jalen Virgil scores TD vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Boca Raton Bowl in 2021
Appalachian State wide receiver Jalen Virgil runs for a touchdown during the first quarter of the Boca Raton Bowl against Western Kentucky, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Boca Raton, Fla.

Western Kentucky (9-5) outscored the Mountaineers 21-7 in the third quarter. The lone score for Appalachian State during that span came on a 62-yard pass from quarterback Chase Brice to Malik Williams with 3:25 remaining.

Brice completed 15-of-23 attempts for 317 yards and four scores, but he also had one interception.

"They made more plays than we did," Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark said after the game.

Zappe transferred to Western Kentucky from Houston Baptist, where he threw for more than 8,000 yards and 73 touchdowns in three seasons as a starter.

South Florida was well-represented in the Boca Raton Bowl. The teams have a combined 32 players on their rosters from Florida -- 20 for Appalachian State and 12 for Western Kentucky. That includes 17 players who hail from Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade counties.

The Mountaineers ended their season with a loss for the first time since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision level in 2014. Appalachian State was 6-0 in six previous bowl games.