COLUMN: Opportunity knocks at the ‘Shoe’ for WKU

Published 4:10 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

Patrick (left) and Robert Reynolds display their 2002 college football championship rings – Patrick’s from WKU and Robert’s from Ohio State.

The Hilltoppers during the past years since joining Division I football in 2009 have had their shots, while building a stronger program that has notches in its belt already for bumping off higher-profile programs.

But no major kingpins, such as Ohio State, as trophy wins. OSU is up this Saturday for the Toppers. There have been O-fers against Alabama, Auburn – even Louisville. Since 2010, WKU also has suited up against Nebraska, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Auburn.

Their record in those 24 games games is 4-20.

There were wins over Kentucky (2), Arkansas, Vanderbilt and multiple close calls with Indiana, the latest two losses to the Hoosiers were by a combined four points.

So the road against Power 5 conference teams has not been easy, to say the least.

But what’s interesting to reflect on is the reaction by some fans when WKU went Division I. There was no way, in some people’s eyes then, that the Toppers could compete against, let alone defeat, any of these teams who had more resources, talent, fans and prestige.

That thought process has proven to be sometimes true, sometimes false. It’s a work in progress to gain more stature as a program. Ohio State is the latest opportunity in that vein.

In this run up to Saturday’s game, attention naturally turns to Patrick and Robert Reynolds, Bowling Green High School legends on the gridiron.

Robert played at Ohio State before embarking on an NFL career. His Buckeyes won the national title in 2002. He was a linebacker.

Patrick, meanwhile, was a defensive end on WKU’s national title that same year.

Patrick Reynolds knows the task is tall for the Tops.

“Obviously, we know Ohio State. Western knows Ohio State is the cream of the crop in the country,” he said.

But “WKU has seen such growth in the past 20 years. It’s great to see.”

Patrick Reynolds knows WKU has some ammo to use in its effort to get an upset.

“Western always seems to be competitive. Ohio State has a ton of five stars on the field. And Western will have one, two and some three stars. (But) Western’s very capable of putting up points. Ohio State’s defense is very, very good. But I think we’re going to put on a show.”

Fair enough. It’s clearly a drama in which, if WKU pulled off a miracle of sorts and comes home with a win, would be among the scenes in any made-for-TV movie illustrating WKU’s jaunt from nearly shutting down its program to rubbing elbows with college football’s elite.

An upset would take a whopper of a game from WKU’s vaunted offense, multiple takeaways, OSU looking toward the following weekend, etc. Who knows, maybe coach Tyson Helton has some strategy that will put his team into the lore of Hilltopper history. He’s a proven winner and has been a great architect for the program.

OSU is ranked No. 6. WKU is not ranked, but it continues to grow as a program and is an exciting team to watch.

It’s another opportunity for the Hilltoppers to polish up their reputation as a team to be reckoned with.

Win or lose, it will be a fun game to watch.