In October 2013, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and ESPN announced the creation of the Boca Raton Bowl. The inaugural postseason college football event kicked off in December 2014, before the Christmas holiday, and was televised live on the ESPN family of networks. The Boca Raton Bowl features a team from the MAC against a team from either Conference USA or the American Athletic Conference, with the leagues rotating each year as part of a six-year agreement (2014-2019).
Inaugural Game – 2014: Two conference champions faced off in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl on December 23, 2014 at FAU Stadium on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Boca Raton, Fla. Conference USA champion Marshall defeated Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois, 52-23. The Huskies struck first with a Juwan Brescacin touchdown off a 19-yard pass from Drew Hare, but the Thundering Herd was quick to answer as Deandre Reeves had a 93-yard kick return on the next play to even the score. Marshall would remain in command for the rest of the game, scoring a total of six touchdowns and putting up 505 total offensive yards. Despite the point deficit, NIU nearly matched Marshall’s offensive efforts with 25 first downs, compared to 28, and 425 total offensive yards. NIU’s kicker Christian Hagan went 3-for-4 to earn nine of the team’s 23 points.
2015 – With a combined 15 points going into the half, the Temple Owls (10-4) and the Toledo Rockets (10-2) were locked in a defensive battle on Tuesday night, Dec. 22, at the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl. Toledo’s senior quarterback Phillip Ely rallied the Rockets in the fourth quarter to clinch a 32-17 win over No. 24 Temple despite the Owls valiant stab at a fourth-quarter comeback. Temple opened the second half with an eight-play 67-yard drive, capped by an Austin Jones field goal, cutting the lead to 12-6. A 40-yard pass from Walker to wide receiver Ventell Bryant and a 13-yard rush from Brandon Shippen, set up Jones for a 25-yard FG, his 22nd of the season, setting a new single-season school record. Jones passed Don Bitterlich’s 1975 total to take over first on the all-time Temple list. Temple went for the onside kick, but the referees signaled that Toledo came up with the ball under a pile of players at midfield. Hunt then tacked on an insurance score for the Rockets, scoring from 41-yards out to put the game out of reach at 32-17 with just 2:29 on the clock. The Owls had one more possession before the clock ran out, but the drive stalled at the Toledo 27-yard line, ending the game 32-17 in Toledo’s favor. Ely threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns, which earned him the Offensive MVP honor as well as Jason Candle’s first victory in his debut as the Rockets’ head coach. On the other side, Temple’s quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 236 yards but was unable to put up any touchdowns. The Owls’ 17 points came off the foot of sophomore kicker Austin Jones. The defense on both sides set the tone for the game. Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich, the Bednarik and Nagurski Award winner for College Defensive Player of the Year, finished his career with a game-high 12 tackles, setting a new Temple record with 493 total stops. The Toledo defense held the Owls to 67 yards of total offense in the first half. Sophomore Ja’Wuan Woodley, who had a key safety in the first half, was named the game’s Defensive MVP. Seniors Chase Murdock and Trent Voss paced the front seven with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively.
2016 – The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers held off a fourth-quarter rally from Memphis en route to a 51-31 Boca Raton Bowl victory. The game featured two of the elite offenses in the country, in a contest that was predicted to be the highest scoring of the bowl season. Western Kentucky senior Anthony Wales exploded for 329 yards from scrimmage as the Hilltoppers earned their third consecutive bowl victory. Memphis struck first in the scoring affair after the teams exchanged punts. Western Kentucky responded with a trick play that sent offensive lineman Forrest Lamp barreling into the end zone on a nine-yard run to give the Hilltopper’s a 28-17 lead going into the break. Western Kentucky accounted for 365 yards of offense in the first half. The Hilltoppers extended their advantage after Mike White’s 41-yard pass to Taywan Taylor and a Wales touchdown run after a Memphis fumble. Memphis used a series of defensive stops to get the game within two scores at 44-31. White, Wales and company fired back with a touchdown of their own late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The Boca Raton Bowl Champions totaled 598 yards of total offense, highlighted by offensive MVP Anthony Wales. Quarterback Mike White accounted for 336 yards and threw touchdowns while linebacker Keith Brown picked up Defensive MVP honors.