Hilltoppers playing for pride in 100 Miles of Hate rivalry

Teammates pile on WKU kicker Ryan Nuss (37) after he kicked a field goal to win in triple over time during WKU’s game vs MTSU on Friday Nov 17, 2017 in L.T. Smith Stadium.

Matt Stahl

With bowl eligibility out the window, WKU football will still have something to play for in the 100 Miles of Hate rivalry against Middle Tennessee State this week. 

The Hilltoppers, who have won the previous three matchups in the series, will have their work cut out for them. The Blue Raiders are 5-3 and will be trying to get bowl eligible themselves. MTSU is led by senior quarterback Brent Stockstill, who has thrown for 15 touchdowns this season.

“They have a great quarterback,” senior cornerback DeAndre Farris said of WKU’s keys to victory. “Getting pressure on the quarterback, stopping those receivers.”

Redshirt senior defensive lineman Julien Lewis spoke of the need to stay focused for the rivalry game.

“Be playing physical,” Lewis said. “Not thinking, there’s not an opportunity for a bowl game, just going out there wanting to do the best you can for your brothers on the field.”

Farris, who is tied for the team lead with one interception, said that the team is focused on unity this week.

“We’re playing for each other,” Farris said. “One thing we’ve put a lot of emphasis on this season is being a family. We have a family environment so we’re just playing for one another.”

Lewis, who has one sack and nine total tackles on the season, agreed with Farris.

“There isn’t any quit in us,” Lewis said. “We want to be great in any form, fashion, you know. You don’t gain anything out of life by quitting and not playing anymore so you always try to get better. Get better in any way possible.”

WKU head coach Mike Sanford was optimistic at his Monday press conference, saying that he was excited about having a healthy receiving corps for the first time in a while, as redshirt junior Quin Jernighan and redshirt sophomore Jahcour Pearson have both been banged up, but will be ready to play at full capacity on Friday.

“I think it’s important for us just to be able to get back to some of the stuff that we like doing with multiple receivers on the field and I think that’ll be big for us going forward into this game,” Sanford said.

The Hilltoppers will also be looking to amend kicking issues this week. In addition to a number of blocked kicks this season, redshirt junior Alex Rinella missed a 22-yard field goal and recorded a punt of just 9 yards last week. 

“I think it’s important for us to look at what we’re doing,” Sanford said. “We went from having three different guys a year ago handle punting, kickoff specialist and field goal and PATs and now that’s one guy doing all three so we went back and looked at what we were doing as far as how much we’re kicking him during the week, the fatigue that might come up.”

Friday’s game is scheduled to kick off at 7:00 p.m. from Murfreesboro, Tennessee and will be available to watch on CBS Sports Network.

Reporter Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mattstahl97.