RICHMOND, Ky. – The 105th season of Eastern Kentucky University football begins Saturday, Sept. 2 when the Colonels travel to face longtime rival Western Kentucky University in the latest installment of the Battle of the Bluegrass.
The game will begin at 7 p.m. ET and air live on online at FloFootball.com.
INSIDE THE SERIES
- Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky have met on the football field 84 times. Both schools were among the seven founding members of the Ohio Valley Conference in 1948. Western left the conference after the 1981 season and returned for the 1999 and 2000 seasons. The first meeting was in 1914 when EKU won 34-6 in Richmond. The most recent meeting, also in Richmond, was in 2008 when WKU picked up a 37-13 victory. The two teams met every year from 1946 to 2000.
- Eastern has played well against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams in recent years. In addition to beating Miami (Ohio) 17-10 in 2014, the Colonels have lost close games at Indiana (19-13), Louisville (23-13), Kansas State (10-7) and at Kentucky (34-27 OT). Last season, EKU trailed Purdue by just 10 points in the fourth quarter. Eastern had 284 yards of total offense in the first half at Purdue. The Colonels out-gained the Boilermakers 123 to 85 on the ground in the first half, had five more first downs and converted six more third downs.
- EKU returns just five starters on offensive and seven defensive starters from last season’s team. The returning offensive starters are Chance Edwards (RG), Cameron Fogle (SL), Cameron Kowalewski (RT), Ryan Markush (WR) and Ethan Thomas (RB). The returning defensive starters are Ben Bascom (NB), Nigel Bethel (CB), Jeffrey Canady (LB), Corey Glass (LB), Kobie Grace (S), Aaron Patrick (DE), and Jared Tucker (S).
- Eastern welcomes 63 new players to the team in 2017. Of the 116 players on the roster, 66 are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
- Mark Elder engineered back-to-back top-25 rated recruiting classes, re-stocking the Colonel roster with a talented young core. Eastern’s 2016 class was ranked as the 23rd best in the nation. Elder’s second recruiting class was rated as the 14th best in the country. This class featured 20 players that received all-state honors, including the No. 17 overall Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) recruit in the nation, Sean Cleasant.
- Punter Keith Wrzuszczak was chosen as a second team preseason All-American by STATS and senior linebacker Jeffrey Canady was chosen as a second team preseason All-American by TyrantScouting.com. THE HILLTOPPERS
- WKU is in its 99th season of football and first under Head Coach Mike Sanford.
- Western began the FBS transition in 2007 before becoming a full member in 2009. The 2017 season is WKU’s ninth as a full FBS member.
- Since 2010, the Hilltoppers have had consistency at the quarterback position with just three opening day starters over those seven seasons. Mike White started last season and is expected to start Saturday. Last season he completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,363 yards and 37 touchdowns.
- WKU graduated three All-Conference USA performers on the offensive line, including second round pick Forrest Lamp at left tackle. However, Western’s offensive front returns a combined total of 144 games of experience across the expected starting five.
--Western has a new head coach in Mike Sanford, a former WKU assistant who spent the last two years at Notre Dame as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
DOWN THE ROAD
- The Colonels will stay in state for Game Two of the season when they play at Kentucky on Sept. 9 at noon. The Hilltoppers will travel to Illinois of Big 10 on Sept. 9.
- Eastern’s first home game is slated for Sept. 23 against Tennessee Tech.