For the second straight year, Western Kentucky football held a season kickoff event in Louisville and just as was the case in 2014, Tuesday night's outing quickly became a standing room - if not overflowing - crowd.
Donned head to foot in Hilltopper gear, the energetic crowd cheered as different coaches took turns behind the mic to discuss the upcoming season. The cheers grew louder as a few members of the team, including a number of Louisville area products, were introduced.
Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who also attended last year's preseason event, spent much of his time taking photos with fans and chatting with young Topper fans.
"I'll be honest, last year I didn't expect a crowd and it was packed, so this year was the opposite," he said. "I expected a big crowd and this is really cool. To see the fans react to this event is unbelievable."
Jeff Brohm, who is beginning his second season at WKU, says the growing support in the Derby City is indicative of the program's direction.
"We have a great following in Bowling Green," said Brohm. "They do a great job in supporting us. It's a great town, great people. This is a program that we feel is on the rise and we have a chance to make a statement, so we want to expand to the fans throughout the state of Kentucky. I think they more they come out and see us, the more they'll like us."
Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton admitted that the excitment of the event was contagious.
"What a great turnout," he said. "There's a lot of excitement. You can feel the excitement in the air. We're excited to get started."
The Hilltoppers will open fall camp on Wednesday, August 5 and they do so with a bit of a different national identity. WKU was picked by league media as the preseason favorite to win the Conference USA East Division, marking the first time since moving to the FBS that the program has been selected as a preseason favorite to win a division or league title.
"We try not to buy in to all of that," Helton said. "We're kind of a blue collar bunch. We had our rough times last year and know how quickly you can get into those situations, so we are going to take it one game at a time. Our main focus is Vandy coming right out of the gate. We'll be ready to play and won't worry about anything beyond that."
While the approach to the season for the team won't differ much than before, the added pressure of being a favorite is a welcome change for Doughty.
"What's life without pressure," he said. "I don't know of any situation where good pressure has been a bad thing. Expectations are going to come. It's kind of a unique situation with our program. We were kind of the underdogs and now we're favorite, so that's something that is really special that I take pride in and I think our team definitely takes pride in."
WKU will open the 2015 season on Thursday, September 3 at SEC foe Vanderbilt. The Toppers home opener is Thursday, September 10 against C-USA West Division favorite Louisiana Tech.