Toppers counting down days to bowl

Lucas Aulbach

While WKU players spend the week studying tape of Central Michigan and preparing for the Chippewas, Topper fans can get ready for the game with a quick geography lesson.

WKU is almost 500 miles away from Detroit, the site of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26.

CMU, however, will have to travel just 155 miles to get to Ford Field, where the bowl will be played.

The issue of traveling distance may imply that the crowd at the Little Caesars Bowl will be in favor of the Chippewas. Coach Willie Taggart hopes the stands will be full of WKU red, though.

“We’re going to have a lot of Hilltopper fans there, too,” Taggart said at practice Wednesday. “They better watch out. We did it to FIU — we had more fans there. Why not Detroit?”

When the Toppers hit the field in Detroit, it will be the first time in school history WKU (7-5, 4-4 Sun Belt Conference) has played in an FBS bowl.

Taggart said that thought is still sinking in.

“I just asked our guys earlier, ‘Do you ever sit back and tell yourself, “We’re going bowling,”?’” he said. “Because I do — a lot.”

In its first bowl berth, a WKU team that finished in the middle of the Sun Belt standings will face a CMU team that finished near the middle of the Mid-American Conference (6-6, 4-4 MAC).

The Toppers and Chippewas were two of the last teams invited to bowl games, but they got to this point by closing the regular season on totally different notes.

WKU had a hot start to the year and looked like it could contend for a conference title until losing three of its last four games.

CMU on the other hand, didn’t become bowl-eligible until the last week of the season. The school had to win its last three games and four of its last five to secure a .500 record and a shot at a bowl game.

Momentum may not mean much, though, with both teams waiting more than a month between their last regular-season game and the Little Caesars Bowl.

Junior running back Antonio Andrews said Wednesday that a few days off from practice already have him feeling refreshed.

“This week, I was able to catch my legs, and I feel refreshed,” he said. “I’m ready to go. I feel like it’s Week One.”

Andrews has had himself quite a season, rushing for 1,614 yards and picking up 2,977 all-purpose yards, currently good for No. 3 in NCAA history.

He will have some serious competition at the same position on the other side of the field. CMU running back Zurlon Tipton has picked up 1,396 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground this year, while ranking No. 15 in the nation in rushing yards per game.

“They’re going to run the ball and try and hit us in the mouth,” senior safety Kareem Peterson said.

With the game on Dec. 26 at 6:30 p.m. CST, the Toppers have just less than three weeks to practice and prepare for the Chippewas.

Taggart said he plans to work on improvement across the board in practice before he starts to prepare his team for CMU’s style of play.

“Right now, we’re really going to get back to the fundamentals of just playing football and tackling and lining up right, playing technique football and some things you don’t really get to work on during the season,” Taggart said. “We got a lot of time to work on it now and be ready for the game.”