Bowling Green, Ky. - The 91st season of Western Kentucky University football is officially underway. The Hilltoppers hit Feix Field at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium for the first time Monday afternoon, practicing in helmets and shorts for just over two and a half hours. It is the first of five straight afternoon workouts this week, leading into the first two-a-day practice of the year on Saturday.
Hilltopper players and coaches were greeted by a heat index in the mid to upper 90s, as Bowling Green experiences one of the hottest days of the summer.
"The heat - along with putting helmets and jerseys on - certainly effected our mental focus," said Hilltopper head coach David Elson, who is starting his seventh season at the helm of the program. "It was sloppy at times, but we got a lot of good work in today. I told the guys that the best part is we get to come back out tomorrow and fix things as we continue to get better."
With a number of new faces in camp, and plenty of youth up and down the roster, getting lots of repetitions in practice will be a major theme for WKU during its four weeks leading up to the season opener.
"We changed our structure a little bit and worked on both ends of the field so we could get our young guys reps and get things on film," explained Elson. "Early on during these one-a-days, we want to make sure we're efficient with our work, get a lot of things done and obviously keep guys healthy."
WKU, the newest of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision Members, is eligible for a post-season bowl berth and the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2009. The Hilltoppers open the 2009 season at Tennessee on Sept. 5 at 11:21 a.m. (CDT), and opens the home portion of its schedule the following week against South Florida at 6:30 p.m.
WKU's 511-337-30 all-time record in 90 seasons of football equates to a .600 winning percentage, ranking 26th among all 120 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools and tops in the Sun Belt Conference. WKU's 948 APR in football is also higher than all other Sun Belt Conference programs.