‘100 Miles of Hate’ tests more than just skill

Jonah Phillips

Jonah Phillips

Most coaches will tell you the most important game you will play is the next one on the schedule. Taking a season game-by-game, most would say, is the simplest way to find results as a team. 

But the Hilltoppers have had today’s matchup on their minds since a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Middle Tennessee last September, and with the “100 Miles of Hate” between these two teams, a lot more is on the line than wins and losses this time around.

Head Coach Jeff Brohm would certainly tell you his team’s main objective is to remain in the top spot of Conference USA’s East Division, but this weekend the Hilltoppers will be playing for pride just as much as they will be playing for the win. 

The Hilltoppers will attempt to snap a 26-year home-game losing streak against the Blue Raiders. It has been nearly three decades since WKU had an answer for MTSU when it traveled to Bowling Green. 

The last time the Hilltoppers beat MTSU at home, sixth-year quarterback Brandon Doughty was two years away from being born.

Three of the last four games in Bowling Green were decided by five points or less, and a total of just 12 points has decided the last four contests both at home and away. The last time WKU won was in 2011 in a contest that took two overtimes to conclude.  

Technically speaking, the game presents the most historic rivalry currently in C-USA; this is the 65th match of the two programs. The Blue Raiders lead the all-time series 34-29-1. 

During high-pressure contests like this one, emotion can easily make or break the game, so the Hilltoppers feel confident in their offense being led by a sixth-year veteran when their opponent’s quarterback is in his first year of eligibility.  

The Blue Raiders’ offense is in the hands of redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill. Stockstill has compiled some impressive stats in his first season at MTSU: an overall quarterback rating of 153.9, a completion percentage of 67.7 and 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions. 

But this isn’t your normal game of football.

In a bitter rivalry game, composure can be key. Stockstill has been impressive but generally untested. He may have thrown only two interceptions this season, but one came in his first career start, and the other against  No. 8 Alabama.

The Hilltopper defense has seen a solid turnaround from last season, jumping nearly 70 spots from the end of last season to tie for No. 54 in scoring defense nationally. This game is the perfect opportunity for the defense to finally snap the grueling home losing streak associated with this heated rivalry. 

Everyone will follow the sixth-year veteran vs. freshman quarterback narrative on Saturday, but other matchups are also statistically interesting. 

Hilltopper junior wide receiver Taywan Taylor leads the Hilltoppers in receiving yards with 571 and receiving touchdowns with five. Blue Raider redshirt senior Ed’Marques Batties leads MTSU with 528 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. 

A game doesn’t get nicknamed the “100 Miles of Hate” from simple rivalry between two competitors. 

The WKU-MTSU rivalry transcends the term. It surpasses even the University of Louisville vs. University of Kentucky game as the bitterest rivalry in the surrounding region. 

With a win over MTSU today, the Hilltoppers will have only Marshall — and Florida Atlantic, if things get really ugly — to worry about in securing the East division. But there’s a good chance most WKU players are not thinking that far ahead. They may be thinking instead about 100 miles of hate — about what it would mean to “Hilltopper Nation” to bring a win, finally, back to Bowling Green.