WKU Football wrapped up practice Wednesday evening as the Hilltoppers prepare for a Friday, Nov. 2 game against Conference USA opponent Middle Tennessee. Kick off at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium is set for 7:00 p.m. CT and will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.
“The mood of our locker room is still intense. We want to play, we want to get better every day and we want to beat Middle,” redshirt senior defensive lineman Julien Lewis said. “You want to put your best effort out there for every [opponent], but when it’s a rivalry you always dig a little deeper.”
Historically, the WKU has faced the Blue Raiders a total of 67 times, posting a 32-34-1 record. The Hilltoppers are currently on a three-game win streak against Middle Tennessee, with the most recent victory coming on Nov. 17 of last season by a score of 41-38.
The 2017 game was a barn-burner, as the Hilltoppers and Blue Raiders played a triple-overtime game that saw WKU win on a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Nuss. Senior quarterback Mike White led the Hilltoppers, throwing for 485 yards and five touchdowns, including a 93-yard touchdown pass to Lucky Jackson in the fourth quarter.
This season, the 5-3 Middle Tennessee squad ranks 67th in total defense (allowing 419.8 yards per game) and 87th in total offense (averaging 355.4 yards per game). The Blue Raiders are 4-1 in Conference USA play and have won four of their past five games since losing 49-7 at No. 3 Georgia on Sept. 15.
“Middle Tennessee has a very good defense, very fast and very physical,” redshirt freshman quarterback Davis Shanley said. “It’s a rivalry game and we need to stay focused. It’s a big deal, rivalries are always big and anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”
Despite a 1-7 record, the Hilltoppers look to build off of this season and keep competing every week at a high level. A victory on Friday night in Murfreesboro would give WKU four consecutive wins in the series for the first time since 1973-76.
“We’re just trying to pick everybody up, everybody might have their heads down because of the last loss,” redshirt senior running back D’Andre Ferby said. “But at the end of the day it’s rivalry week, it’s a new energy we have and we’re trying to go out there and execute.”
Ferby continued, “No matter how the season’s going, when rivalry games come, records go out the window. We’re ready, Coach Sanford’s preaching about trying to send us seniors out the right way, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
“We just want to get after these guys, nobody wants to lose to their rival. We’ve won the past three so we want to keep it going,” added redshirt senior defensive back DeAndre Farris said. “We’re still playing for each other. One thing we’ve put a lot of emphasis on this season is being a family and we’re playing for one another.”
With four games remaining, the Hilltoppers look to finish the season on the upswing. After Friday’s game, WKU will face Florida Atlantic, UTEP and Louisiana Tech on Nov. 24 to wrap up the 2018 campaign.
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WKU Hilltopper Athletics