It’s been 13 days since the WKU Football team has officially been on the gridiron but after beating previously unbeaten Marshall, securing a berth in the inaugural Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl and finishing up finals in the classroom the Hilltoppers began their postseason preparations Thursday afternoon at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
WKU rides a four-game winning streak into its second FBS bowl appearance, which coincidentally will be played against Mid-American Conference foe Central Michigan, who handed the Tops a 24-21 defeat in the 2012 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. This year, the Hilltoppers take their high-flying, sixth-ranked offense (525.3 ypg) to the Bahamas to face off against a Central Michigan defense that enters bowl season ranked 16th nationally in total defense (331.2 ypg).
It’s been nearly two years since the Hilltoppers and Chippewas met in Detroit, Mich. and only 11 active Hilltoppers that played in the 2012 bowl game remain on WKU’s roster. Among those 11 is redshirt senior offensive lineman Cameron Clemmons, who told the media that the sting of the 2012 loss is a motivating factor heading into the Christmas Eve showdown at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau.
“In 2012 we got the bowl and as much fun as we had, we still remember the bad taste of losing that game,” said Clemmons.
“We put ourselves in a position to get this bowl and finish with a five-game winning streak. It’s the only way to finish.”
With a postseason destination like the Bahamas, it could be easy for players to get distracted from the primary goal of winning the bowl game. But with a slew of veterans who have been in this position before like tight end Mitchell Henry, WKU is focused on bringing its first FBS postseason victory back to Bowling Green.
“There’s definitely a lot of emphasis on locking in,” said Henry. “You’re out here at practice and you can see, we’re all locked in and focused. At the end of the day it is still a business trip: go down there and win the game. We’re going to go down there and have fun. We’re going to have fun while we are here but at the end of the day we want to send the seniors out right, get the first (FBS) bowl win in school history and make some history here.”
The Bahamas Bowl will be played at 11 a.m. (CT) on Dec. 24 and will be broadcast nationally by ESPN with Steve Levy, Lou Holtz and Mark May on the call. The Hilltoppers will continue their prep for Central Michigan on Friday with another two-hour practice session.