Topper fans enthusiastic for 2012 season

WKU football players sign autographs on Aug. 25 during Family Fun Day at Smith Stadium. 

Jonah Phillips

Fans are looking forward to WKU’s opener against Austin Peay and to the season as a whole with high hopes.  

The Toppers ended the last season with a 7-5 record and, even without a bowl appearance, Topper fans are still looking forward to the year with optimism.

WKU football fan Justin Owens, of Bowling Green, said he’s looking forward to seeing more progress from last year.

“I’m most excited about seeing the Hilltoppers build and continue with the success they ended with last year,” Owens said, “which I think will translate into a win over UK at Commonwealth Stadium on Sept 15 and seeing sold out crowds at Smith Stadium throughout the year.”

But before the Toppers get a crack at the UK, they must focus on Austin Peay, who they play at 6 p.m. this Saturday at Smith Stadium.

Owens said he “couldn’t be more excited” about this weekend’s season opener.

WKU baseball assistant coach Brendan Doughtry echoed the same enthusiasm.

“With the way last season ended, I think there is a lot of excitement on campus, in the athletic department, and around Bowling Green,” Doughtry said.

Much of the fans’ focus is a curiosity of what the offense will look like this year without Bobby Rainey.

Rainey, who’s now with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, graduated after breaking WKU’s single-season and career rushing records in 2011.

“When you have someone like Rainey who is playing in the NFL right now, that says a lot about your program” Leitchfield freshman Jared Willis said.  “I would like to see them build off the success they found with (Rainey).”

Owens said he was excited to “see who will fill the shoes of Bobby Rainey.”

I don’t know if it will be just one back or a collection of backs to help fill the void,” Owens said. “Although I think there was only one Bobby Rainey, and it will take several guys stepping up to keep the running game going.”

Fans also said they were interested in the evolution of the passing game, especially in how senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes uses the weapons around him.

“Between Kawaun Jakes and (senior wide receiver) Marcus Vasquez and (senior tight end) Jack Doyle, more connections need to be made,” Bowling Green native and WKU football fan Phillip Hudnall said.

Coach Willie Taggart has talked throughout the preseason about the excitement for his team he’s noticed on campus and around town.

That excitement must carry over into fans in the stands on Saturday, Taggart said.

“We’ve got to get all our students to stay here,” Taggart said. “We can’t let them go back home on the weekends, especially this weekend. We just got here.

“No one should be going home this weekend. Stay here, come L.T. Houchens-Smith Stadium. Show up and show out. We’re going to make it a snake pit. All right?”