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WKU Hilltoppers football starts off C-USA with a lost 35-28 against UCA Bears in Houchens Smith Stadium on August 29, 2019.

So, here we are again. WKU football just got embarrassed against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, one that the Hilltoppers should have handled easily if we were to believe what first-year head coach Tyson Helton had been saying in the weeks leading up to the game.

While losing to an FCS team is certainly something that the program shouldn’t be doing, it wouldn’t be as concerning to WKU fans if the team hadn’t looked so flat in the late minutes. The offense didn’t, as Helton had promised throughout the offseason, come out letting the ball fly.

Nobody in Houchens-Smith Stadium on Thursday night was fooled into thinking that the year was 2015 or 2016 and something like the Mike White-to-Taywan Taylor connection was back in action. Instead, redshirt junior Steven Duncan, who recently beat out Arkansas transfer Ty Storey for the job, started at quarterback.

While Duncan wasn’t terrible the entire game, he had moments where he looked dreadful. Both of his interceptions could have been avoided and he had several other throws that, to put it politely, could have been better.

That’s not the performance you need from a quarterback who seems purpose-built for the offense that Helton supposedly wants to put into place.

However, Duncan can’t be made to shoulder the entire blame for Thursday’s debacle. The creativity that Helton was supposedly going to bring the offense was limited to a few trick plays, none of which worked particularly well.

When WKU needed to come up big, make a few stops and maintain a few drives to take down a powder-puff opponent the program paid over $300,000 to be its punching bag for the evening, they were unable to do it — especially during an awful fourth quarter.

So what’s next? If an FBS team can’t defeat an FCS team, who can it beat? For the fans, what’s the point in sticking around to find out?

Over 17,000 people attended the game, if we’re to believe the numbers released by WKU during the course of the contest.

Is it that much fun to watch the team lose like that? Based on the amount of students who vacate the Berm before halftime, even when the team has a commanding lead, the answer might be no.

While other Herald writers through the years have browbeat the student population for not bringing an SEC-level atmosphere to a school hovering near the bottom of what 247Sports ranked as the No. 8 conference in FBS college football entering the 2019 season, this isn’t going to be one of those columns.

Come to the games. Or don’t. Come for the first quarter, the full game, leave at the half, whatever you want.

Fans, especially students, don’t owe the program anything. In fact, the highest fee students pay every semester goes to athletics, which is why students get into games for free. Students have already supported the program enough without even walking through the gate.

Now, by no means is this to encourage a boycott of the WKU football program, nor should it be perceived to be against athletics receiving funding from the school and the student body.

However, with the football team in the shambles that it’s currently in, no student should feel like they’re obligated to do anything.

If it’s not fun to attend football games, stay home. There’s plenty else to do in this town without watching one of the worst college football teams look totally stagnant against an opponent it should’ve easily defeated.

On that point, why are the Hilltoppers paying lower-level teams to come play them when WKU can’t even win those games? Wouldn’t it be better to go be the punching bag for an SEC school during the first week of the season and make some money?

At least an underdog win would be exciting.

Sports Columnist and News Editor Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-2653 and matthew.stahl551@topper.wku.edu. Follow Matt on Twitter @mattstahl97.