The Hilltoppers return home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Louisiana-Monroe in the 2012 Homecoming game. Both WKU and ULM have made some noise with their early-season nonconference play, and enter Saturday's game atop the Sun Belt Conference standings with 2-0 league records. The road team has won the last two meetings between the schools, with the Warhawks winning 35-30 in Bowling Green in 2010 and the Hilltoppers picking up a 31-28 overtime victory last season in Monroe.
WKU leads 4-3
In Bowling Green: WKU leads 2-1
First Meeting: WKU 42-27, Oct. 18, 1952
Last Meeting: WKU 31-28 (OT), Oct. 29, 2011
Shawn Kenney, play-by-play
Stan Lewter, analysis
Radio: Big Red Radio Network
(103.7 WPTQ-FM; 1450 WWKU-AM in Bowling Green)
Randy Lee, play-by-play
Leo Peckenpaugh, analysis
Scott Thompson, sideline
Live audio on wkusports.com
The Hilltoppers are off to a 5-1 start for the first time since 2005 when they won six of their first seven games of the season en route to a #1 ranking in the Division I-AA polls.
The 5-1 record also equals the 2001 Middle Tennessee squad for the second-best start ever by a Sun Belt Conference Team. Louisiana-Lafayette - which has a chance to match WKU's 5-1 record Tuesday night when they visit North Texas - won six of its first seven games in 2011 before falling to WKU in Bowling Green.
This will be WKU's 83rd Homecoming contest, as the Hilltoppers have posted a 52-27-3 (65.2%) record in such games since defeating Louisville 7-6 on Nov. 5, 1927. The Toppers snapped a four-game Homecoming losing skid last season when it knocked off Louisiana-Lafayette, 42-23.
Both the Hilltoppers and Warhawks earned votes in this week's USA Today Sports Coaches Poll. WKU received six votes, while ULM came in with two. This week's game is the first-ever matchup of two Sun Belt Conference schools who are both earning votes for the Top 25.
- The last time WKU hosted a game this late in the season in which the two teams combined for three or fewer losses came in 2005 when 6-1 (and #1 ranked) WKU hosted 5-2 Southern Illinois on Oct. 27. In 1980, the Hilltoppers were 6-0 when they hosted 5-1 Eastern Kentucky in the seventh game of the season.
Welcome Home - After nearly a month on the road, the Hilltoppers return home for the first time since Sept. 22 to host Louisiana-Monroe for Homecoming. WKU is 2-0 at home so far this season, and has won five straight games on its home turf dating back to 2011. In its two home games this year, the Hilltoppers are averaging 45.5 points per game, and winning by an average of 32 points per game.
WKU Aims For Bowl Eligibility - Sitting at 5-1 on the year entering Saturday's clash with ULM, the Hilltoppers are looking to become bowl eligible for the second straight season, and the first Sun Belt team to reach six wins in 2012. WKU finished 7-5 in 2011 by winning seven of its last eight contests. Entering the week, there are 16 teams that have already become bowl eligible, while the Hilltoppers are among 18 trying to earn that status this week.
Midterm Report - As the 2012 season enters its second half, there is no doubt this is the best year so far for WKU since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision. Statistically, WKU is also improved over this point a season ago when it was beginning its run of season-ending victories. The Toppers have scored 24 touchdowns through six games this season, compared to 15 last year. They are also averaging 94.1 more yards per game, and allowing 59.1 fewer yards to the opposition.
Something's Got To Give - Entering Saturday's game, both WKU and Louisiana-Monroe rank among the league and national leaders in time of possession. The Hilltoppers have held the ball for a conference-best 33:31 per game, while ULM is close behind at 33:17. Those two averages rank eighth and ninth in the nation, respectively The Hilltoppers come in with a streak of 16 straight games of over 30 minutes of possession.
Jakes Bounces Back - After missing the second half of WKU's win at Arkansas State with an injury, senior QB Kawaun Jakes was back under center last Thursday at Troy. Jakes came back in a big way, completing a season-high 21 of 31 passes for 255 yards and three TDs. It was his second-highest passing yards total of the season behind his career-best 296 yards in the opener against Austin Peay. Jakes also threw for three touchdowns against the Trojans. He also threw for three scores against Southern Miss, and had four TD throws against APSU. Through six games, Jakes has already thrown for a career-high 11 touchdowns. His previous best in 12 games was 10, coming in both 2010 and 2011. He also needs just two more completions to take over sole possession of second on WKU's career list.
Doyle Finds Paydirt - With a nine-yard touchdown grab late in the second quarter at Troy, not only did senior tight end Jack Doyle help the Hilltoppers on their way to a comeback win, he also ended a personal streak. Doyle had gone 79 catches between scoring grabs before his TD at Troy. In fact, prior to that, his last score came nearly two years before on Oct. 9, 2010 at Florida International. Even without a score, Doyle led the Hilltoppers in receiving with 52 catches for 614 yards in 2011. He is having similar results this season, hauling in a team-best 27 catches for 242 yards through six games.
Jackson Doubles Up Again - For the second straight game, junior linebacker Andrew Jackson led the Hilltoppers in tackles, finishing with 12 stops against Troy. He also had 12 tackles in the previous outing at Arkansas State. Eleven of his stops against the Trojans were solo tackles. The last two games are the first double-digit tackle performances for Jackson in 2012. Jackson had five games with 10 or more stops last season, but until this string of two straight, had not done so since finishing with 11 tackles in an Oct. 22, 2011 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Schwettman Solid - Since taking over as WKU's starting placekicker in the win at Kentucky, true freshman Garrett Schwettman has been nearly perfect. The Murray, Ky., native is a perfect 4-for-4 in field-goal tries - including knocking through three in Sun Belt games. He is also 20 for 21 on the year in PATs, with the lone miss coming after a penalty lengthened the try.
Duo Named Midseason All-Americans - Phil Steele's College Football Preview released its 2012 Midseason All-America teams last week, with a pair of Hilltoppers making the cut early in the year. Senior Quanterus Smith was named a fourth-team defensive lineman, while junior Antonio Andrews was a fourth-team all-purpose performer. Smith enters play this week ranked fourth nationally averaging 1.30 sacks per game, and tied for 11th averaging 1.90 tackles for loss per contest. Andrews has been equally impressive, rushing for over 100 yards in four straight games, and ranking second nationally with 201.0 all-purpose yards per contest.