Friday’s game will be the 13th – and last – inside Houchens-Smith Stadium for quarterback Mike White.
The redshirt-senior has had a brief, two-year run in a Western Kentucky uniform. But his play over that span can’t be undervalued.
And from his perspective, the Florida native and South Florida transfer can’t wait to lay it all on the line at 7 p.m. Friday against Middle Tennessee. It’s his last opportunity to showcase his stuff on a campus he never dreamed he’d hold so dear.
“I love this place. I love this stadium, the fans, the atmosphere, everything about it,” he said. “It gives you a little bit extra more, especially as a senior class, knowing this is our last time playing here. We’ve won some championships on that field, we’ve lost some heartbreakers, we’ve come back – all the good stuff that comes with the sport has happened on that field. You run at five in the morning in the summer on that field. You’re sweating at two in the afternoon.
“It’s gonna be a little sentimental, but it’s just gonna be business as usual. We’re gonna go out there and execute the gameplan and try to win.”
In March of 2015, White announced he would leave the University of South Florida and former WKU coach, then-USF coach, Willie Taggart. The Bulls were going in a different direction with their offense and White wanted a better fit.
He chose Western Kentucky where friend Brandon Doughty was already tearing through the WKU passing record books. After sitting out the ’15 season by rule, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound graduate of the University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., quickly came into his own by throwing for 4,363 yards and 37 touchdowns last year.
White’s final year has been more of a struggle despite similar passing success. He’s already matched his interception total (7) from a year ago and been sacked 32 times. Coach Mike Sanford’s system also asks White to tuck the ball and run a little more – the QB still has a surprising team-leading six rushing touchdowns.
“What he’s done this year in terms of the toughness that he’s exhibited, the plays that he’s made down the stretch in big games and really putting this team on his shoulders at times, that’s exactly the type of stuff that is gonna carry with him of the rest of his life,” Sanford said. “And I think it will also carry with him in the next phase of his football career before these next three games are completed here on The Hill.”
White goes into Friday’s game fifth in WKU history in completions (525) and attempts (793) and fourth in passing yards (7,545). He’ll finish second to Doughty in completion percentage (currently 66.2) and touchdown passes (Doughty had 111, White has 54).
In home games, White has completed 275 passes at a 67.7 percent completion rate for 3,931 yards for 28 touchdowns.
Those numbers, of course, are all that more impressive when considering Western’s signal caller only did it for two years.
“We’ve had some memorable times here in The Houch. This is our last chance to go out there and play in front of a Bowling Green crowd that’s been through a lot, been through the ups and downs and have supported us a lot,” White said. “Those who do come to the games, they’re loud, we hear ‘em, we really do appreciate it and it’s our last chance to go out there in front of them and show ‘em how much we support them and how much we appreciate their support and go out there and get a win for them.
“It’s kinda sentimental when you think about it. I came in and I came into a brand-new family. I didn’t come in with a freshmen class, really. I didn’t got through that redshirt year with a lot of guys. I had to come in and this place in general and just did a great job of welcoming me and treating me like their own and I can’t thank ‘em enough. I came in kind of an outcast, as a transfer, you don’t really know a lot of people and you just come here hoping to get a chance to play. I’ve had the time of my life. Best decision I’ve ever made, hands down. I talk about that all the time and I stand by it."
— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop