6,000 miles in the making | Hilltoppers return for Homecoming after three-game road swing

WKU’s wide receiver Kylen Towner, 81, makes a catch during the Hilltopper’s 48-20 loss to LSU on Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Billy Rutledge

After another conference win last weekend, the WKU football team is looking toward its next opponent in Conference USA: the Florida Atlantic Owls (2-6, 2-3).

Saturday’s contest marks Homecoming, where WKU is 51-29-3 all-time. It will be the first home game for the Hilltoppers in nearly a month after three consecutive road games.

Over those three games, WKU (7-2, 5-0) traveled more than 6,000 miles: the longest consecutive three-game swing in program history.

At home under Head Coach Jeff Brohm, WKU is 8-1 and currently riding a seven-game home winning streak while averaging 50.1 points per game.

This season, the Hilltoppers have already defeated Louisiana Tech 41-38, Miami (Ohio) 56-14 and Middle Tennessee 58-28 at Smith Stadium.

“It’s good to come back home, and we’re excited about Homecoming,” Brohm said. “We’re playing a team that beat us last year. We had a big lead on them, and they came back and found a way to win.”

Brohm knows there could be similar challenges this time around.

“They present us some problems up front. They are big and physical and match up pretty well against us,” Brohm said. “It’s a game we’ve got to be ready to play and find a way to score points. Our defense has to come out and play at a high level.”

Last season, the Hilltoppers and Owls clashed in a game that went down to the wire.

Down in Boca Raton, Florida, the Owls scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat WKU 45-38.

The defeat marked another late-game collapse for WKU last year and will be a motivating factor for the team this week.

The Hilltoppers will also emphasize defensive improvement this week.

In the last four games, despite finishing with a 3-1 record, WKU has given up 134 points, including a 48-20 loss to LSU.

Brohm expressed his displeasure with the defensive unit following the game against the Monarchs last week.

“To be honest, I think [during] the last three games, we haven’t played at the level that I would like,” Brohm said. “Until then, I thought we were making good progress.”

Brohm emphasized the need for his defense to buckle down.

“It’s not huge things, but it’s small things we have to get corrected. We have to find ways to get better,” Brohm said. “I think we definitely need to improve. This is a game that will be a good test for us.”

One aspect of the Hilltoppers’ game that has been improving this season is the rushing attack.

Redshirt junior running back Anthony Wales shined in the last game against Old Dominion; he tallied 185 yards and four touchdowns.

Wales has been a huge factor after returning from a hamstring injury that kept him out the first half of the season.

His presence in the Hilltopper attack comes at a crucial point in the season. After Leon Allen sustained a season-ending injury, redshirt freshman D’Andre Ferby was dealt a far heavier load than expected.

With the lengthy away-game stretch behind them, the Hilltoppers are anxious to play in Bowling Green again.

“It’s a great feeling to be back home,” senior cornerback Wonderful Terry said. “You know, we’ve been on the road every week, and I kind of forgot that we play at home sometimes. It’s a great feeling to be back home and play in front of this good crowd that we have.”

Over the past two seasons, the Hilltoppers are 8-1 in the month of November. Only Wisconsin, Ohio State and Florida State have won more games in November since 2013.

The game will kick off at 11:00 a.m. and is set to be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports Network.