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WKU defeats Rice, 42-21, becomes bowl-eligible for 10th time in 11 seasons

Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 5:42 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are going bowling once more.

WKU got to magic win number six following the Tops’ 42-21 beatdown over the Rice Owls (3-7, 2-4 C-USA) on Saturday afternoon in Tyson Helton’s Houston homecoming - the Tops’ head coach played at quarterback for the Houston Cougars from 1995 to 1999.

Saturday’s win keeps WKU tied atop the C-USA East divisional standings with Marshall. Both teams will meat in two weeks in Huntington on Saturday, November 27 - a game that could potentially be the division title game.

The Tops dominated early in the game, taking a 28-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Rice would score three touchdowns in the second half, but it wouldn’t be enough as Bailey Zappe countered that by respectively throwing a pair of touchdowns to Joey Beljan and Mitchell Tinsley.

Zappe finished throwing for 482 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. He completed 81 percent of his passes, pacing his season completion percentage of about 70 percent. Tinsley also shined bright on the ball, catching 10 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns - including his second-half game sealer.

Freshman running back Kye Robichaux also had a notable game, running for 62 yards and a touchdown while averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry.

Defensively, the Tops picked up where they left off against MTSU last week, picking off four Rice passes. Louisville native Omari Alexander had two interceptions - both in the second half - while Kahlief Haillasie got another pick in back-to-back games. Three different Hilltoppers got a sack. DeAngelo Malone led the team once more in tackles with six.

WKU (6-4, 5-1 C-USA) will play its final regular-season home game next Saturday, November 20 at 11 a.m. CT on Senior Day.

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