Hilltoppers Looking To Be King Of The Mountain

Auburn will face Western Kentucky Saturday afternoon at 1:30 for homecoming at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.–-Auburn finally gets its shot at number one this Saturday for homecoming, but it's a different year and different classification as Division I-AA Western Kentucky rolls into Jordan-Hare Stadium looking for the ultimate upset in college football this weekend.

A strong running team that uses the option attack to keep opponents guessing, the Hilltoppers have one of the top players in all of I-AA leading the attack in junior quarterback Justin Haddix. A 6-1, 210-pounder with good speed and a strong arm, Haddix has been outstanding this season in wins over West Virginia Tech and Eastern Kentucky. Completing 68 percent of his passes, Haddix has thrown for 360 yards and two touchdowns while also adding two touchdowns on the ground.

Complementing Haddix on the ground are a pair of top-notch running backs in senior Lerron Moore and G.J. Wooldridge. At 5-10, 200, Moore has the power to run through tackles, but also the speed to hit the corner. This season he has rushed fro 330 yards and three touchdowns on just 36 carries. The 5-11, 85 Wooldridge has added 79 yards on just eight carries and one score. Leading them in the hole is bruising fullback Ross Cassity (6-2, 235, So.).

At wide receiver Western Kentucky spreads the ball around with four players a threat to get the ball when it's in the air. The leading receiver is senior Maurice Perkins (5-9, 170) who has four catches for 78 yards. Freshman Jamison Link (6-1, 190) also has four grabs for 48 yards. Two big-play threats are Seale, Ala. native Chris Jackson (6-1, 190, Jr.) and sophomore Curtis Hamilton (6-1, 185). Jackson has 70 yards on just three catches with a score while Hamilton is averaging 37 yards per reception on two catches this year. Tight end Chris Brunemann (6-3, 250, Jr.) is a strong blocker and a capable receiver with two catches for 39 yards.

Up front WKU is led by All-American center Eric Losey. The 6-2, 290-pound senior is expected to be one of the top players in the Gateway Conference this season. Rounding out the athletic front line are left tackle Andrew Campbell (6-3, 300, Fr.), left guard Greg Ryan (6-3, 280, So.), right guard Bill Hewig (6-0, 290, Sr.) and right tackle Joe Dolchan (6-3, 280, Jr.).

Defensively the Hilltoppers are led by a secondary that is considered one of the best in the country in I-AA. The star of the group is cornerback Antonio Thomas. A strong draft possibility next spring for the NFL, the 6-0, 200 senior and pre-season Gateway Conference Defensive Player of the Year has eight tackles and one forced fumble this season. On the other side fellow senior Dennis Mitchell (5-8, 185) has seven tackles on the season and one pass broken up. At safety sophomore Marion Rumph (6-2, 190) and junior Scott Greschel (5-9, 195) form a physical duo in the middle for Western Kentucky.

Up front the Hilltoppers will be a small, but quick defensive front for the Tigers to handle. At the ends seniors Charlie Phillips (6-3, 260) and Daniel Williams (6-2, 270) could create some problems for Auburn, but will be hard-pressed to handle the pressure of Auburn's running game for long. In the middle senior Joe Woolridge (6-1, 295) rounds out the three-man front and is the run stopper of the group for the Hilltoppers.

At linebacker senior Brandon Smith (6-2, 220) and junior Sam Sexton (6-3, 220) will roam the outside for WKU and also play as an extra defensive end at times. Sexton has been the most productive of the pair with nine tackles in two games. In the middle junior Jon Hedges (6-1, 230) and sophomore Andre Lewis (6-0, 210) are the play-makers for the Hilltoppers with 22 tackles between them.

Sophomore Chris James (6-0, 185) is a solid kicker for WKU and is a perfect three of three on the season. Punter Tanner Siewart (5-10, 180, So.) has been very good as well with a 42.7 yard average despite punting just three times this season. Returning kicks for the Hilltoppers will be Mitchell, who is averaging 22 yards on three punt returns and just under 18 yards per kickoff return.

A strong team for I-AA standards, Western Kentucky must hope for a lot of help from the Tigers if they hope to keep the game interesting in the second half. This season the Hilltoppers are averaging 43 points per contest and giving up just 12. The most amazing stat is the rushing totals. WKU is rushing for 322 yards per game and allowing opponents just 31 on the ground. If Saturday's game has any hope to be a fun one for the visitors they must be able to move the ball on the ground and eat up some clock. If they struggle running the football it will be long day for Western Kentucky and a very happy day for the homecoming crowd in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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