‘I like warm-weather bowls so this is the place to be’: Helton, Stewart talk Boca Raton Bowl


WKU Athletics

WKU head coach Tyson Helton leads his squad on to the field to play in-state adversary, the Louisville Cardinals on September 14, 2019 at Nissan Stadium. Louisville won 38-21.

Jake Moore, Sports Editor

WKU Football head coach Tyson Helton and athletic director Todd Stewart fielded questions from the media in Diddle Arena on Sunday night, laying out their hopes and expectations for the Hilltoppers as the team prepares to play Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 18.

The Hilltoppers have made bowl games eight out of the last 10 seasons and are 3-3 in securing bowl bids during Helton’s tenure, something Stewart appreciates.

“Three for three, that’s pretty good,” Stewart said. “I mean, I wasn’t a math major, but I think that comes out pretty well. And I think it speaks volumes about the job that he’s done, because when he came along, we were 3-9. You go from three and nine to three straight bowl games, that doesn’t happen unless you’re a great coach and [you] certainly do a great job leading a team so my hat’s off to Tyson [Helton] and his staff.”

WKU’s 2021 season did more for the program than just add more records to the books. Reaching a conference championship and another bowl game has helped beef up WKU’s reputation, which should help come recruiting season.

“What it’s done now on the back end, it’s really been able to showcase our brand and put us on a national stage where we’re able to talk to the best of the best and say ‘you can play at a high level here, you’re on a platform to break records and to do great things’,” Helton said. “And so it has helped recruiting tremendously, and we’re just now getting in the middle of all that… it’s been really good for us.”

Helton is also excited for the bowl’s locale and is looking forward to facing a strong Mountaineers team.

“We’re ecstatic, I can’t think of a better location to be [than] in Boca Raton to play a game,” Helton said. “[I’ve] always been a warm weather bowl guy, that’s the number one thing, I like warm-weather bowls so this is the best place to be, and then to get to play a great Appalachian State team, they’ve done a great job this year and it’s a great matchup.”

Performing in front of a Florida crowd will put a lot of eyes on the program, something of utmost importance for recruiting as the area is a hotspot for talent.

“It was one of the first things that crossed my mind, we do have players from South Florida, their families will be there and they’ll also be some local people, I’m sure, that will come to the game and want to watch and see what we’re all about,” Helton said. “It puts our brand in the hotbed of recruiting and so it’s huge for us and it’s a big bonus for us to have the opportunity to play a bowl game down there for sure.”

A bowl game won’t be the only Hilltopper action on the 18th. WKU Basketball will host the Louisville Cardinals at Diddle Arena, a marquee day for WKU Athletics.

“Hopefully it’s a really special day. It’s a great exposure day, playing Louisville here in basketball, that’ll be our biggest home game of the season,” Stewart said. “They haven’t played here since 2014, so that’s a big day in and of itself. I’m glad the games aren’t [at] exactly the same time so our fans can see both.”

Helton was also able to give an update on his team’s availability for the matchup and is expecting a healthy roster.

“We just finished the [C-USA championship] game so I’m letting the guys have 48 hours to relax,” Helton said. “I fully expect to have everybody, I know they’ll be excited to play this game for sure.”

Appalachian State should be a well-balanced opponent for Helton’s crew and the Hilltoppers are expecting a fight.

“[They’re a] really good football team, they’re a very well-balanced football team, they run the football extremely well, [they’ve] got a really good quarterback that can get it done,” Helton said. “They got really good, skilled players. [They’re] an excellent defensive football team, they get after you [and] they play fast – they’re a complete football team and the record speaks for that.”

Kickoff from Boca Raton is set for 10 a.m. CT on ESPN.

Sports Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.