WKU to play in Cure Bowl

By  | 

Western Kentucky is going bowling after all.

The Hilltoppers learned Sunday they sneaked into the postseason and will head to the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., to face Georgia State (6-5) on Dec. 16. It's WKU's fourth straight bowl trip and fifth since 2012.

The Cure Bowl, played at Camping World Stadium, is scheduled to kickoff at 1:30 p.m. CST and to be televised by the CBS Sports Network.

First-year coach Mike Sanford took over a program that had won three bowl games in a row, two consecutive Conference USA titles and had gone 23-5 over a two-year stretch. His Tops started out 5-2 before limping to a 6-6 finish that included a 41-17 loss at Florida International in the season finale.

Now WKU will have the chance to record at least seven wins in a season for the seventh straight year. The program also avoided a third bowl snub since 2011.

“We are thrilled to accept the invitation to the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl and represent Conference USA as we go for our fourth-straight bowl victory," WKU athletic director Todd Stewart said in a release. “It is a testament to the hard work of so many, and another terrific bowl destination for our coaches, staff, student-athletes and fans."

Georgia State started the season with a loss to FCS member Tennessee State before winning six of its next eight. The Panthers (6-5) ended the year with losses to Appalachian State and Idaho, respectively, at home.

Western Kentucky and Georgia State have played once before, a 44-28 WKU win in Atlanta on Nov. 2, 2013.

The Hilltoppers won the 2014 Bahamas Bowl, 2015 Miami Beach Bowl and 2016 Boca Raton Bowl and lost the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. They will enter the postseason one of just eight teams who have won three straight bowl games

The Panthers, coached by Shawn Elliott, played in the 2015 Cure Bowl, their only other bowl appearance, and lost 27-16 to San Jose State.

— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop