Hilltoppers season opener moved to Aug. 29

WKU running back D’Andre Ferby (32) celebrates a touchdown in the first quarter during the football game between UTEP and WKU at Houchens-Smith Stadium on Nov. 17. The Hilltoppers won 40-16. 

Drake Kizer

The Tyson Helton era for WKU football will now kickoff two days earlier.

The Hilltoppers’ season opener against Central Arkansas – which was previously announced for Aug. 31 – has been moved up to Aug. 29. The shift moves the game from Saturday to Thursday.

An exact time for the game has not been set, but the game will officially be WKU’s first home contest on a Thursday since the 2016 season opener against Rice.

That game began at 7 p.m. and saw former quarterback Mike White lead WKU to a 46-14 win over the Owls in his debut.

According to a press release, the 2016 home opener was the highest-attended game by WKU students in the program’s Football Bowl Subdivision history.

But due to a variety of factors, the Hilltoppers’ crowds – both student and non-student – have been dwindling ever since.

All five of WKU’s home games last season took place on Saturday evenings at 6:30 p.m., which was meant to drive higher student attendance.

However, announced attendance for the home finale against Texas El-Paso last year was only 6,221. That lowly figure dropped average attendance for the 2018 season to 14,321 – far below Houchens-Smith Stadium’s capacity of 22,113.

UCA, a Football Championship Subdivision team that finished 6-5 a year ago, leads the all-time series over WKU 1-0. The squads last met in 2009 – a 28-7 win for the Bears.

Helton’s choice for starting quarterback will take the field to lead the Hilltoppers against UCA. The ringleader for WKU’s new-look offense will also play five more home games, which are all scheduled to take place on Saturdays this fall.

TV info and exact kickoff times for all games will be announced at a later date.

Sports reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.