WKU football fans share memorable bowl experiences

Elliott Pratt

For many WKU football fans, this past Christmas was one they’ll never forget. Thousands of students and alumni cut their traditional holiday plans short in order to support the Toppers in Detroit for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Before sunrise on Dec. 26, a convoy of 13 charter buses filled with fans departed from WKU South Campus en route to the Motor City for what would be a lengthier trip than anticipated.

The caravan hadn’t entered Ohio before running into rough patches of wintery weather.  The heavy snow forced unexpected stops for short periods of time along the way, placing all plans behind schedule.

The group was nearly two hours behind schedule before the pre-planned lunch break in Piqua, Oh., where everyone was appropriately fed Little Caesars pizza.

The agenda was to make it to Detroit in time for everyone to check into their hotel rooms and move over to Ford Field for a pre-game pep-rally.

Delays caused by bad weather, however, forced fans to check into their hotels later that night, and many were lucky to see WKU’s opening kickoff.  In fact, nearly all the fans were still on the buses watching ESPN’s pregame show just 30 minutes before kickoff.

WKU fans covered sections 101-105 of Ford Field, which stretched across the Topper sideline.

The entire game presented good football, and the crowd stayed with the team the entire way.

One student in particular has a unique connection with the team.  Murray sophomore Madison Schwettman made the drive with her family to not only to cheer for her school, but to support her younger brother, freshman kicker Garrett Schwettman.

“It’s been great. I would drive nine hours in the snow to do it all over again,” Shwettman said. “My little brother has done a very good job for the Hilltoppers this year.”

Not only was WKU going for its first ever FBS bowl win in its inaugural appearance, but much of the chatter was centered around running back Antonio Andrews’ sights on the single season all-purpose yards record, set by Barry Sanders in 1988.

Tammy Austin and her daughter Porshia Austin, a junior at WKU, rode fan bus No. 11 to support Andrews, who has been a family friend for many years.

Tammy Austin’s son, Tyrone Johnson, was an assistant coach on the football and track team at Fort Campbell High School where Andrews was a standout in both.

Johnson passed away just over a year ago from an asthma attack.

“It was bittersweet,” Tammy Austin said about making the trip to the game. “I told my husband ‘You and Tyrone should be up here.’”

Andrews fell just 90 yards short of the record, but Austin says she has no doubt that he will continue to carry on the lessons he learned from her son, and will be right back in the mix next year among elite running backs in the nation.

“I saw him after the game and he was smiling,” Tammy said. “He’s a very humble young man and will be back to try at it again next year.”