Vaught's Views: Area players are part of EKU-WKU rivalry

September 16, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If Eastern Kentucky beats Western Kentucky Saturday night, former Harrodsburg standout Patrick Bugg could be a key to the win.

The sophomore tight end had a team-high seven receptions for 76 yards in last week's season-opening loss at Appalachian State and clearly has made the transition from high school quarterback to playing a much more physical position in college.

"He could possibly be one of the best receiving tight ends in the country," Eastern coach Danny Hope said. "He has receiving skills for us to line up at any receiving position and complete a play. He's 6-5 and well over 200 pounds. He runs well for someone at that position.

"The transition from a skilled player to a line-of-scrimmage player was something he struggled with last year. This year he's gotten bigger and stronger, and he's a much more physical player. He did a good job blocking Saturday."


Bugg did so well that Hope says he'll get the "ball a bunch this year" based on his opening-game play.

Bugg might run into a familiar foe a time or two in Saturday's game.

Brandon Smith, a former two-sport standout at Lincoln County, is Western's second-leading tackler this season. The junior linebacker has 13 solo stops and three assists and has recovered one fumble.

Saturday's game in Richmond has one other area connection. Mark Dunn, Bugg's former teammate at Harrodsburg, scored Eastern's first touchdown last week against Appalachian State on a 3-yard run, one of only two carries he had in the game.

The former area players - and everyone else - should enjoy Saturday's game now that the two long-time rivals are finally back playing.

"It's going to be a big-time rivalry," Hope said. "I think it will be something we haven't seen around here in over two decades. We have a chance to break attendance records. I think you will see 7,000 to 10,000 out here tailgating.

"The atmosphere will be second to none. When I played here back in the 1970's, there were several occasions where we had crowds that were 20,000-plus, and many times it was for the Western game."

As an ex-Eastern player, Hope understands the pride factor involved in this game for fans.

No bigger game for Eastern, Western fans

While it may not have the statewide appeal of the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry, there is no bigger game for Eastern and Western fans.

"When you play Western, everybody that bleeds maroon is listening to see the score because it gives you bragging rights for a year," Hope said. "It means a lot to our team, but it may mean a whole lot more to our fans and the people that played here.

"It's one of the oldest rivalries in the nation, dating back almost 90 years. It's been considered one of the top sporting events in the state for over 80 years. It's one of the reasons you play college football."

If Kentucky wasn't playing Indiana at almost the same time, even more fans likely would be in Richmond for this game.

Then again, based on how UK played against Louisville, some fans may well decide that the Eastern-Western game is a far better game to watch than the one in Commonwealth Stadium.

"Western is an outstanding football team," Hope said. "They will be a good measuring stick for where our program is right now.

"We have a good football team. We have a lot of potential on our team. We feel like we're going to improve quite a bit over last week. I just think it is going to be a heck of a ballgame."

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