Hilltoppers to debut new QB, kick off season against Austin Peay


Brittany Fisher

Western Kentucky University football team steps onto Feix Field in Houchens-Smith Stadium before the 2021 homecoming game against the Charlotte 49ers on Oct. 30.

Lynda Eernisse, Football Reporter

WKU Football will kick off the season against the Austin Peay Governors this Saturday at 11 a.m. at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

The kickoff time is 30 minutes earlier than any other game, making it the first official NCAA D1 college football game of the year.

Head coach Tyson Helton addressed the media Monday ahead of the season opener. 

“What a great opportunity,” Hudson said. “The first college football game of the 2022 season, we get to showcase our brand and be on a great platform.”

In regards to the Governors, Helton had high praise about the team’s offense. Helton believes that Austin Peay presents a great challenge for the defense.

“It’s gonna be a really good test for us, their offense is a very high power offense. We’ll have our hand full defensively trying to contain them,” Helton said. 

The last time the Hilltoppers and Governors met was back in 2012, where WKU won 49-10 in a home game on the Hill. Overall, the two schools have met 42 times on the football field. WKU holds the series edge with a 35-6-1 record.

Helton sees the contest as a four quarter game, expecting the Governors to give it their all.

“I expect them to have good players, we’re just going to have to make those adjustments and play well,” Helton said.

Coach Helton’s squad ended the 2022 season on a high note. The Hilltoppers brought home a Boca Raton Bowl victory by defeating Appalachian State, 59-38. Quarterback Bailey Zappe ended his historical season by throwing for 422 yards and six touchdowns to become the all-time leader in single season passing yards and touchdowns at the FBS level.

Zappe was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.  

A new face will run the offense this year: fifth-year transfer Austin Reed. Reed transferred from West Florida University where he led his team to win the 2019 Division II Championship.

“I’d like to see him manage the offense, I’d like to see him do his job,” Helton said.

The Hilltopper faithful will only have to wait until Saturday to see their new quarterback in action.

Football reporter Lynda Eernisse can be reached at [email protected]