College football action is set to continue this week as Western Kentucky (2-1) looks to bounce back in front of the fans at home, welcoming the Florida International Panthers (1-1) to Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium to open up Conference USA play.
After two straight road games, WKU head coach Tyson Helton said that it’s going to be great to have home field advantage. He added that having the fans in attendance is going to give the team a huge edge.
“I do want to say thanks to our crowd that was at the game in Indiana. We had a good following there, we felt their presence. We’ve got to be able to come home and get that home-crowd advantage, but again, we’re looking forward to this game and getting conference play started.”– Tyson Helton
In the 2021 season, Western Kentucky went onto to clinch C-USA’s east division while Florida International fell short in every conference matchup of the season. In 2019, the Hilltoppers faced off against the Panthers in the C-USA opener, dropping the Sunshine State opponent 20-14.
“It’s anybody’s game. I’ve had a chance to really watch every team play, and it’s like anything, there’s been some games that have been some tough matchups for some Conference USA teams, but everybody’s pretty good. You’ve got to show up and play every week. We’ve got a tough schedule, as does everybody else, but it is a competitive conference for sure.”– Tyson Helton
Western Kentucky was handed their first loss of the season last weekend, falling 33-30 in overtime to Indiana in Bloomington, despite holding a solid lead over the Hoosiers entering the final minutes of regulation. The Hilltoppers haven’t fallen short two weeks in a row since a 48-31 loss to Michigan State followed by a 52-46 loss to reigning conference champion UTSA last season.
The Hilltoppers played a solid game against the Hoosiers last weekend, picking up 545 total yards of offense and more than a few valuable defensive plays. The Hoosiers narrowly escaped in overtime thanks to a successful 51-yard field goal from kicker Charles Campbell.
“We had 545 yards of offense, unfortunately we had two touchdowns called back and had an interception in the red zone. When you look back, those three or four plays are going to make a difference. I think it shows that our team, we can be as good as we want to be. But you’ve got to show up every week and play the game the right way.”– Tyson Helton
Western Kentucky is looking for their 18th straight game with 30 or more points scored. The last time the Hilltoppers scored less than 30 points was a 39-21 loss to Georgia State in the 2020 Lending Tree Bowl. In regular season contests, the streak goes back to a 2020 matchup against Southern Miss. The Hilltoppers defeated the Golden Eagles 10-7.
The Hilltoppers haven’t returned to Houchens-Smith Stadium for a game since opening the 2022 college football season in a 38-27 victory over Austin Peay on Aug. 27. Under Helton, the program has recorded a 12-6 overall record in home contests and a 13-11 record on the road.
In the 2015 campaign, Western Kentucky kicked off the season with a 2-0 record before faltering against Big Ten foe Indiana by just three points. In the same year, the Hilltoppers finished with a 12-2 record and won the C-USA Championship. Western Kentucky also began 2-0 this season before suffering a tough three-point loss to the Hoosiers.
Florida International has picked up one win and one loss on the season, kicking things off with a 38-37 overtime victory over Bryant before falling to Texas State on the road, 41-12. The Panthers have been on a bye this past week to rest up for Saturday’s matchup against the Hilltoppers.
The Panthers have switched up gunslingers a few times this season with three total quarterbacks seeing action so far. FIU quarterback Grayson James has been the most active, collecting 403 total passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Western Kentucky has met Florida International on the field a total 15 times, and has a 9-6 advantage in the series. The conference foes met last season in Miami as former quarterback Bailey Zappe and company handed the Panthers a 34-19 loss on their home turf. The Hilltoppers have defeated Florida International in the last three meetings. On Saturday, the home team will be looking to to extend that streak.
Western Kentucky is set to take on Florida International on Saturday, Sept. 24 at Houchens-Smith Stadium. The opening kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CT and the game will air on the CBS Sports Network.