Spreading the Wealth: WKU utilizes backfield in win at Georgia State

Running back Leon Allen (33) during the second half of WKU’s 44-28 victory over Georgia State Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Elliott Pratt

WKU’s box score after Saturday’s 44-28 win at Georgia State was filled with two names that haven’t seen the end zone in a long time. Senior running back Keshawn Simpson barreled for four touchdowns on 10 carries and senior fullback Kadeem Jones caught a touchdown pass.

It was the first score all year for Jones and the first time Simpson had seen the end zone since his two-touchdown outing against Kentucky in the season opener.

In the mix of different players making the highlights, one running back continued to put his name among the nation’s best, despite not scoring. Senior Antonio Andrews rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries in the Toppers’ win, putting him at first in the FBS with 1,290 rushing yards on the season, 114 yards in front of Boston College’s Andre Williams. But the load was spread evenly among the WKU backfield.

While Andrews got the most carries, Simpson’s 10 carries were just one more than sophomore Leon Allen’s tally — Allen picked up 61 yards on nine carries.

Coach Bobby Petrino and his staff are trying to fix the recent inefficiencies they’ve had in the red zone, and spreading the ball around may have solved that.

“We are trying to keep (Andrews) fresher going into the fourth quarter,” Petrino said. “Not that he’s not going to get his touches, we just feel like if we can give him a series off in the first quarter, a series off in the second quarter, we feel he’s going to be fresher when the defense is tired.”

It turned out to be a good decision for the Toppers in the fourth quarter to sit Andrews for a series. Allen carried the ball on five consecutive plays late in the game, amassing 49 yards on the drive that set up a short touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Nelson Fishback to sophomore tight end Tim Gorski.

Simpson said after the game he felt the offensive line was strong enough that any one could run behind them and have a lot of success. Along with Simpson, Allen and Andrews, one more member of the Topper backfield, Kadeem Jones, got back in the end zone — a place he has missed since last season.

In the past two years of his career, Jones has been the go-to fullback in short yardage situations, with 10 touchdowns on 50 carries during that time. He hasn’t seen as much time this season, but he said he felt good helping WKU get the win with his 16-yard touchdown catch standing wide open in the end zone. His end zone trips have been reduced with his adjustment to Petrino’s offense, but he said he’s not worried about the number of carries he gets.

“It’s no problem,” he said. “I’m still working hard in practice like the rest of the guys and I understand my role. Coach Petrino has me just more focused on blocking more and I understand that. I just keep working hard in practice.”

With WKU scoring on all seven of its trips inside the red zone, Petrino left the day pleased with the offense’s ability to operate with multiple guys getting the ball.

“We made plays, we executed, we showed power and our players really understood what we were going to see and what we needed to do to get the ball in the end zone,” Petrino said. “It was a good deal to score touchdowns when we got down there.”