Mother Nature was not on our side heading into the Motor City.
We entered Detroit as the pregame show aired on ESPN in our buses. Many people became antsy at the idea of not making the pep rally before the game. While watching the pregame show, it was obvious Ford Field had not been filled simply because a majority of the crowd remained on a bus awaiting arrival.
Nonetheless, we made it into the stadium just as WKU kicked off to open the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Students and fans filed into sections 101-105 behind the WKU bench for what would be an exciting game.
In observing the crowd around me, I couldn’t help but notice one thing in particular: I counted several Detroit Red Wing shirts among the sea of WKU red. They blended in well but didn’t make any sense to me. My initial thought was to assume this was the best sporting event in town where they could wear their red gear and get away with it.
But I was watching, and I noticed: They didn’t get away with it.
Total attendance for the game was announced as 23,310. Half of the stadium was covered in maroon and yellow, the other half doused in a sea of red.
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.
Sophomore Madison Schwettman made the drive not only to cheer for her school, but also to support her younger brother, freshman kicker Garrett Schwettman.
“It’s been great,” Shwettman said. “I would drive nine hours in the snow to do it all over again. My little brother has done a very good job for the Hilltoppers this year.”
As the LCPB started to wind down, WKU found themselves down 24-21 and looking to put together one final drive to either send the game into overtime or win it all.
Driving toward the WKU student section of the field, the Hilltoppers faced fourth and two at the Chippewa 19 yard line.
All the chatter was whether WKU should kick the field goal or attempt to fulfill the challenge former coach Willie Taggart and interim coach Lance Guidry gave them – “go get that damn trophy.”
Guidry called a timeout and cleared the entire WKU bench onto the field. He was rallying the troops, and the students rallied right behind them.
Deafening cheers and red towels swirled to the left side of the offense. Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes took the snap and rolled to his right to find fellow senior tight end Jack Doyle but couldn’t connect.
As the pass fell incomplete, Central Michigan had muted the WKU faithful.
Mixed emotions filled the hearts of Hilltopper fans. Was it the right move to go for it? Or should they have attempted the field goal for overtime?
No matter the outcome, every WKU student, alum and fan should be extremely proud of the remarkable year the Hilltoppers have displayed.
For former College Heights Herald editor Cole Claybourn, now a reporter for the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, it was his first time watching WKU as fan rather than a reporter, and he said football at WKU has come a long way.
“When I was a freshman they beat Murray State, and that was the only game they won for about two years,” Claybourn said. “It’s fun to see this school back and competing in competitive games like this. Even though (WKU) didn’t win, I think the fans have enjoyed this experience.”