130 for 130: Western Kentucky's football team ranks worst in FBS after opening loss – Courier Journal


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New Western Kentucky University head football coach stopped by the Courier Journal to talk with Dominique Yates about the upcoming 2019 season.
Dominique Yates and Jeff Faughender, Louisville Courier Journal

The Western Kentucky football team has quite a hill to climb to get back to where it wants to be.

The Hilltoppers’ loss last week to Central Arkansas, an FCS school that WKU paid $325,000 to play, was bound to open some eyes. And it did. WKU was ranked No. 130 out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the latest USA TODAY Sports NCAA re-rank released Tuesday.

The good news is there’s nowhere to go but up, right?

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You could film a Bizarro “30 for 30” about how Western Kentucky ended up ranked 130 of 130. New coach Tyson Helton’s first game leading the program had a nightmare finish — the Hilltoppers blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter last Thursday to lose 35-28 in front of the home crowd in Bowling Green. The loss marked the second year in a row the team has fallen to an FCS squad, following 2018’s whiff against Maine.

That, in case this somehow was not obvious, was not the start WKU wanted as the program continues to search for direction in the years following the Jeff Brohm era. (Although after last week’s last-second loss to Nevada, Brohm and his high-profile Purdue team have work to do as well.)

But it’s a long season, and just like teams that start at the top of the polls don’t always finish there, teams like WKU have plenty of time to bounce back. And there were bright spots, including running back Gaej Walker, who rushed for 152 yards and two scores against Central Arkansas.

Next, the Hilltoppers will do what many people do to try to turn their fortunes around — go to Miami. WKU is back in action Saturday at Florida International, which opened the season with a 28-point loss to Tulane.

With a win, the Hilltoppers would have a chance to pass powerhouse teams in the re-rank like Massachusetts (No. 129) and Connecticut (No. 128), which fielded the worst defense in the history of college football in 2018. Hey, it’s a start.

Lucas Aulbach can be reached at laulbach@courier-journal.com, 502-582-4649 or on Twitter @LucasAulbach. Support strong local journalism and subscribe: www.courier-journal.com/lucasa.


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