Hill­top­pers fo­cus de­spite changes

West­ern Ken­tucky has three coaches within a month.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS BRIEFING - Wire ser­vices

DETROIT — Be­fore the Bobby Petrino era be­gins at West­ern Ken­tucky, there’s a bowl game to play — the Lit­tle Cae­sars Pizza Bowl against Cen­tral Michi­gan.

The game at Ford Field tonight is in Detroit, not far from the cam­pus of the Chippe­was (6-6). The Hill­top­pers (7-5) will be run by in­terim coach Lance Guidry.

Petrino’s hir­ing has al­most over­shad­owed the play of the Hill­top­pers. They are in their first bowl since be­com­ing a top-tier col­lege foot­ball school in 2009.

Petrino is re­turn­ing to coach­ing less than a year af­ter he was dis­missed at Arkansas. He had hired his former mis­tress to work in the Ra­zor­backs’ foot­ball de­part­ment.

Guidry, who was the team’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, says his play­ers are ready.

“Th­ese kids are really hun­gry,” Guidry said. “Really been hav­ing some great prac­tices, although they’ve been go­ing through a lot of dif­fer­ent things with the head coaches.”

Guidry was ap­pointed in­terim coach Dec. 8, a day af­ter Wil­lie Tag­gart left to coach South Florida. Two days later, West­ern Ken­tucky hired Petrino to be Tag­gart’s full-time re­place­ment in a stun­ning move that didn’t seem to shake up the play­ers much be­cause fa­mil­iar faces were still around.

“Even though Coach Tag­gert is gone, the coaches are still here with us,” West­ern Ken­tucky ju­nior run­ning back An­to­nio An­drews said. “They’ve been here since Day One.”

Dan Enos has been lead­ing the Chippe­was since 2010. Enos was hired soon af­ter Cen­tral Michi­gan played in and won its last post­sea­son game, beat­ing Troy in the GMAC Bowl with a team put to­gether by former coach Butch Jones, who is now coach­ing at Ten­nessee.

Cen­tral Michi­gan won its last three games this year to be el­i­gi­ble for a bowl. Af­ter go­ing 3-9 in each of Enos’ first two sea­sons, his play­ers are ex­cited to still be play­ing.

“That’s why I coach,” Enos said. “That’s why our coaches coach, to have an im­pact on those young peo­ple.”

The run­ning backs may have much to say in de­cid­ing how this game plays out.

An­drews has run for 1,609 yards and 11 touch­downs this year. He’s also a re­ceiv­ing threat and re­turns kick­offs and punts. He has 2,977 all-pur­pose yards on the sea­son, just 273 be­hind the record set by Barry San­ders.

Cen­tral Michi­gan’s Zur­lon Tip­ton has 1,391 yards rush­ing and 19 TDs, 258 yards re­ceiv­ing and an­other score.

“I like that whole bat­tleof-the-backs thing,” Tip­ton said. “It’s go­ing to be a good bat­tle, and I’m look­ing for­ward to it.”

Cen­tral Michi­gan will be with­out a pair of fa­mil­iar faces on of­fense.

On Sun­day, the team sus­pended lead­ing wide re­ceiver Ti­tus Davis and sopho­more Court­ney Wil­liams for vi­o­lat­ing team rules.

“We’re go­ing to hold our play­ers to a cer­tain stan­dard,” Enos said. “And if you don’t meet that, you’re not go­ing to play.”

The vi­o­la­tion was not dis­closed.

“It’s a priv­i­lege to play col­lege foot­ball, it’s a priv­i­lege to play in this pro­gram and if you don’t do what you’re sup­posed to do, you’re not go­ing to have that priv­i­lege.”

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