Toppers look for big crowd at high-stakes Homecoming football game

Lucas Aulbach

The annual Homecoming football game is traditionally one of the most integral parts of week-long celebrations. This year’s game will also play a  crucial role for the Toppers’ season.

WKU (4-3, 1-2 Sun Belt Conference) has had 11 days since its last game, a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, to prepare for the high-powered offense of Troy (4-3, 2-1 SBC), their Homecoming opponent.

While the Toppers have had time to rest, not all members of the team have enjoyed the reprieve.

“I’ve always envied the basketball coaches and the baseball coaches where they lose a hard game and they can go right back to work the next day and play again,” coach Bobby Petrino said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “When you lose a football game, it’s hard. We try to get it over within 24 hours and put it to bed. It’s still very, very difficult.”

If last week wasn’t hard enough for the Toppers — ULL came to Bowling Green with the best scoring offense in the Sun Belt and ran up 254 rushing yards on WKU — things will hardly get easier this weekend. Troy averages 34.4 points per game, good for No. 2 in the conference, and averages almost 50 more passing yards per game than any other Sun Belt team.

Touting two quarterbacks, the Trojans have thrived through the air this year. Senior Corey Robinson, a Paducah native, takes the majority of snaps under center and is a pass-first quarterback. He is responsible for 1,889 of Troy’s 2,294 total passing yards on the year.

Junior Deon Anthony also plays for significant portions of the game. He is a dual threat, having picked up 313 passing yards and 357 rushing yards on the year.

While WKU is looking for a strong performance on defense to stop the two quarterbacks, the Toppers seek support from the stands.

Last year, the Toppers attracted a crowd of 22,323 for their Homecoming game, a 43-42 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe. The year before, 15,122 came to watch WKU take on ULL in a 42-23 win where running back Bobby Rainey ran for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

Saturday will mark the last Homecoming game for redshirt senior offensive guard Luis Polanco, who has been with the WKU football program for five years.

He said the Toppers are looking to make up for last season’s Homecoming loss to ULM.

“It being Homecoming gets everyone excited about coming up together to play the game,” Polanco said. “We should be ready for it.”

Senior fullback Nick Baisch will participate in his final Homecoming game on Saturday. He said the crowd for the game is electric every year.

“Homecoming’s always fun,” Baisch said. “You get people coming back, you get former players coming back that you haven’t seen in a while that you previously played with. I’m hoping for a big crowd, I hope it’s loud, and I’m excited for it.”