Opponent Vitals: Getting to Know the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

September 8, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Kawaun Jakes (6) looks to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second half at Bryant Denny Stadium. The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 35-0. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

I know the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers pretty darn well, mainly because I was one back in the mid-1970's. Back then, the Toppers were not an FBS team but Division II, and transitioned to DivisionI-AA (now called FCS) in 1978. L.T. Smith Stadium (now Houchens-L.T. Smith Stadium) was natural grass instead of astroturf and only had bleachers on one side of the field, seating less than 20,000 patrons. In those days, the stadium did not have lights and games were only played during the day. Many an after-movie date was spent climbing up into the bleachers for a little necking during the fall, spring, and summer.

L.T. Smith was expanded at a cost of over $35 million dollars in 2008 to officially seat 22,113 by adding a section of bleachers to the west side of the field where the tennis courts used to be, in order to accommodate the transition to FBS. Much has changed since the days I climbed the Hill in front of Cherry Hall.

Here are some fundamentals about Western Kentucky:

School Information
Name Western Kentucky University
Location Bowling Green, Kentucky
Founded 1906
Enrollment 21,048
Nickname Hilltoppers
Colors Red and White
Mascot "Big Red"
Conference Sun Belt Conference
Coaching Staff
Head Coach Willie Taggert
HC record at school 10-16
HC overall record Same
Team information
First year of football 1913
All-time record 520-364-31
Bowl record 0-0 (6th year in FBS)
Last bowl -
2011 record overall 7-5
2011 Sun Belt record 7-1
Offensive returning starters 10
Defensive returning starters 8

The Hilltoppers are looking for their second win of the 2012 season, having defeated the FCS Austin Peay Governors, famous for the cheer, "Let's go, Peay!", and having lost in convincing fashion at #1 Alabama last weekend in Tuscaloosa -- but not before sacking quarterback A.J. McCarron 6 (!) times.

Notables:

  • Western has never defeated Kentucky, but has only played them 3 times in history, all in recent years.
  • Western plays a West Coast offense as envisioned by Head Coach Willie Taggert. Western does not have an offensive coordinator.
  • Western's basic defense is the 4-3.
  • This game against Kentucky will be the 15th game in WKU history against the Southeastern conference. The Hilltoppers have never defeated an SEC team.
  • Kentucky's offensive line outweighs WKU's by 35# on average.
  • There are 58 players from the state of Kentucky combined on both UK and WKU rosters.
  • Western is tied for 7th nationally in sacks, 27th nationally in punt returns, 11th in total defense, and 7th in passing defense.
  • This will be the most veteran WKU squad ever to face Kentucky, with over half the squad returning as upperclassmen.
  • QB Kawaun Jakes has a chance to eclipse Justin Haddix for second in all-time pass completions this year.
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