Helton talks UAB, Hilltoppers prep for Blazers


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers quarterback Austin Reed (16) celebrates a touchdown with his teammates during their match against the Troy University Trojans Saturday evening, Oct. 1, 2022 on Jimmy Feix Field on the WKU campus in Bowling Green, Ky. Hilltoppers fell to the Trojans 34-27.

Camden Bush, Football reporter

WKU Football previewed its upcoming matchup against the UAB Blazers in its weekly press conference Monday morning at the Paul Just Media Center in Diddle Arena. 

The Hilltoppers will be returning home for a Friday night contest after beating Conference USA doe MTSU 35-17 in a rivalry matchup Saturday, WKU’s fourth consecutive triumph over the Blue Raiders.

“UAB week, great to be back home,” head coach Tyson Helton said. “Had a really good rivalry win last week at Middle Tennessee but I know our guys are excited to be back. Expecting a great atmosphere, expecting a great game, a lot of things going on on campus and this is what you want college football to be. I think everybody’s anticipating a really good matchup.” 

The game is set to kick off at 7 p.m. CT and figures to draw a major crowd as WKU is hosting a big pregame concert. The university is welcoming four-time NBA Champion and Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to campus Friday where he will put on a show under his “DJ Diesel” stage name at 5 p.m. CT on South Lawn. 

The matchup against the Blazers figures to be a tight one as the Hilltoppers are slim 2.5 point favorites, according to ESPN. The Hilltoppers have a chance to pull ahead in the all-time series against the Blazers as the two teams’ head-to-head record is tied at 4-4.

“UAB is a really good football team,” Helton said. “They make you earn everything you get, there’s no easy way with them. If you make a play, you earn it in all three phases. So they’re doing a great job. It should be a very competitive game, but a game we’re all excited to get going with.”

UAB has gotten off to a strong start in the 2022 season, posting a 4-2 record up to this point. The Blazers started off the season 2-2 with close losses to Liberty and Rice, but have bounced back with two blowout wins in a row. UAB sits at 2-1 in conference play after beating MTSU and Charlotte in back-to-back weeks.

WKU now sits at 4-3 on the season following its victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The Hilltoppers, like the Blazers, sit at 2-1 in C-USA play. Both teams have dropped tight games in their only conference losses. The Hilltoppers lost 31-28 to UTSA and the Blazers lost 29-24 to Rice. 

One of Helton’s main focuses going into the matchup is discipline on defense.

“Coach [Bryant] Vincent is a really good play caller so you know he’s going to take what you give him,” Helton said. “If you load the box to stop the run, he is going to throw it over your head, so you have to be disciplined in all phases.”

The Hilltoppers are encouraging all fans in attendance to wear black to the game to match the black uniforms the team plans to unveil Friday. 

Football reporter Camden Bush can be reached at [email protected].