Rejuvenated | Tops ‘refreshed and ready to go’ after bye week

Redshirt senior Tim Gorski (86) gets past Florida Atlantic’s linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (28) to score a touchdown during the Hilltoppers’ 35-19 win on Nov. 11 at Smith Stadium. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

The WKU football team returns to action this weekend as it travels to Miami to take on Florida International on Nov. 21.

The Hilltoppers (8-2, 6-0) are coming off their bye week; they used the time to heal some injuries and get ready for their final stretch of the season.

“We’re excited to get back on track and back to playing some football,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said. “We definitely used the bye week to get better but also get refreshed and ready to go. I think our guys are ready to make this last run at trying to win a championship.”

With a big game against Marshall around the corner to close out the regular season, Brohm and the team are being careful not to overlook their next opponent.

“[FIU] is a very important game for us. We’re going to do everything we can to win the game,” Brohm said. “We’re excited to get down there and play some more football.”

WKU will be looking to secure its ninth win on Nov. 21. The victory would be a record for the Hilltoppers in the FBS era.

The Hilltoppers have posted three consecutive eight-win seasons for the first time since 2002-2004 and last won nine games in 2004 when they went 9-3.

In contrast to last season, the Hilltoppers have grown into a team with high expectations instead of playing the underdog role.

WKU has been favored in all but two games this season and is the favorite again this week against a team that is 3-4 in conference play despite being undefeated at home.

“Because you have a target on your back, it doesn’t mean it might influence how you might play,” graduate student and running back Anthony Davis said. “You’re going to always go out there and give it your best.”

Davis is confident WKU will give its best effort. This season, the Hilltoppers have grown to expect similar effort from their opponents.

“Maybe one difference [of increased performance] is you’re going to get every team’s best shot — especially this week, given the circumstances,” Davis said. “But you just have to go out there and execute. There’s not much we can change.”

FIU (5-6, 3-4) is 4-0 at home this season but is coming off a 52-0 loss to C-USA foe Marshall.

The contest marks the final game of the regular season for the Panthers, so WKU will be their last chance to make bowl eligibility.

The pressure is on for the Florida team, and the Hilltoppers know they can’t overlook its desire for a victory and a postseason.

“I don’t think the pressure is any more than we’ve had before,” Brohm said. “I think we try to improve and get better every week. To us, every game is vitally important. We’ve got to find a way to win. We have to become a better football team.”

Brohm is confident that his team is keen on improving even this late in the season. 

“I think our guys are eager and excited to get back on the playing field, which is good,” Brohm said. “We have to go out there and perform at a high level and try to play well in all three segments.”

The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. and will be aired on Fox College Sports.