RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - The 85th renewal of the Battle of the Bluegrass kicks off on Saturday, when Eastern Kentucky travels to Bowling Green for its season opener against Western Kentucky.
“It's a natural rivalry with us being as close as we are and us having played as many times as we have,” EKU coach Mark Elder said on Tuesday.
The first game between these two original members of the Ohio Valley Conference was back in 1914. They played each season between 1946-2000.
“Every time I talk to the alums and the fans, and so forth, they keep telling me how important this game is,” EKU coach Mark Elder said on Tuesday. “I'm aware. Our players are aware of what a big game it is, as far as a rivalry.”
In 2008, Western picked up a 37-13 win in Richmond. That was the last time the schools played each other.
“To us, we're just looking at it as another game,” EKU linebacker Jeffrey Canady said. “Can't look at it any different. Got to prepare for it the same way would as if it were an in-conference game or not.”
WKU led the country in offense last season. EKU heads west with 63 new players on its roster. 66 out of 110 Colonel players are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
“I feel good about the talent of those guys who are going to be new,” Elder said. “It's really just a matter of them being ready to play, and play at a high level, quickly. They've got to play like veterans even if they haven't taken a whole bunch of snaps here at EKU for us to be successful.”
Dan Boyle will start his first game as EKU quarterback. Boyle transferred from Connecticut. The Colonels return just five starters on offense.
“I'm excited. Not nervous at all,” Boyle said. “I'll have the first drive jitters just like any quarterback.
“I've played enough college football where I can kind of work my way into a comfortable situation,” he added.
Seven starters return on defense for the Colonels. Canady hopes his teammates will keep the rivalry game in perspective.
“It's not as important as a conference game, but obviously we'd love to show what we can do and get the win,” he said.