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WKU Football: One Big Thing Before the Hilltoppers Kickoff Against Sam Houston State
It’s Senior Day on the Hill, with the first of two final chances for the Tops to cement their bowl eligibility. Here’s what to watch for.
Western Kentucky takes the gridiron for the final time at home in 2023 and for the first time since they were eliminated from contention to play in the Conference USA title game after last week’s loss to New Mexico State.
While it’s not a position many WKU fans, and I’d bet the team itself, thought they’d be in at this stage in the season, there’s still plenty to play for. Namely: Bowl eligibility, something the Tops have still yet to achieve, entering play Saturday afternoon with a 5-5 record.
All they need is a win either this week against Sam Houston State, who only has one win against FBS-level competition, or next week against FIU, who enters play this week in last place in CUSA play. Ideally, the Tops will win both, and with ease.
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Before the Hilltoppers officially embark on their quest for a sixth win, as well as celebrate 17 seniors who will play their last game at The Houch, some members of The Towel Rack have One Big Thing on their mind that they’re hoping to see out of WKU on Saturday.
Kickoff between the Hilltoppers and Bearkats is 2:30 p.m. CT. Those who can’t make it to the game can watch it on ESPN+.
Fletcher Keel - Just Have Fun
This is the second-straight season the Hilltoppers have seen their CUSA title game dreams come crashing down at home. This year, it was the loss to New Mexico State. Last year, it was a lackluster performance against North Texas, a major outlier in terms of WKU’s quality of play in the conference schedule.
But, after that loss to the Mean Green last year, something funny happened: The Tops started to play really well really quickly. In that loss to UNT, WKU mustered just 14 points. After that game, here’s how the Tops fared the rest of the way:
59-7 win at Charlotte
45-10 win vs. Rice
41-17 loss at Auburn (this one doesn’t really count)
32-31 win at FAU
44-23 win vs. South Alabama in New Orleans Bowl
Once the expectations of making a CUSA title game were off the board, it felt as if the Hilltoppers were free to just be and play like themselves. No more pressure, no more expectations, just 22 guys trying to take the soul from 22 other guys.
While it’s a bit late in the season to have a run like the Tops had last year, two games is plenty to put on a show in the lead up to the bowl game, in which you can take out some of your regular-season frustrations like we saw Austin Reed do to the Jaguars.
That’s what I’m looking to see this week - if now that the CUSA title game is officially out of reach, if Tyson Helton and company go out and just play football. Do they feel and look freer to be who they are. It’ll be the final time for 17 seniors (and who knows how many others that will transfer) to put on a good performance in front of the home crowd, and I look forward to them doing so.
Devin Stewart - Compete For A Full 4 Quarters
Its senior night for WKU, and with the ideal championship season pretty much out of the picture, I need this team to come together and play all four quarters, on both sides of the ball.
Usually teams workout the hiccups and start meshing a few games into the season. But whether injuries or what, it’s now time for WKU to play a full game and have both the offense and defense show up.
Since probably the HCU game, WKU hasn’t been able to dominate a game and have both a complete game and denying opponents opportunities.
The defense saved the Tops against La Tech, the offense gave their all against NMST but wasn’t able to secure the win. But these last two games we need the “Topper Bus” to start rolling!
Matt McCay - Do It for the Seniors
As I think about the main thing for Sam Houston State, you know what matters at this point? Getting bowl eligible and making sure this disappointing season doesn’t turn completely disastrous.
I don’t really care about style points and I’m not deeply concerned about how it looks. A win by one is just as good as winning by 50 at this point.
Would I like to see a huge win? Sure! At this point, it’s put up or shut up time. You either win two and make sure you go bowling or you play around and maybe miss out on a bowl by losing one or both of these final games.
Man up, have some pride, and do it for the brotherhood.