Andrews has chance to break his own rushing record Saturday against Arkansas State

Western Kentucky University’s Antonio Andrews runs into the Troy defense during their game at WKU on Saturday, October 26, 2013. Western would go on to lose 32-26. 

Elliott Pratt

WKU senior running back Antonio Andrews had big shoes to fill when he took over the starting tailback role last season. He succeeded former Topper, now Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back Bobby Rainey, who set the single season rushing record with 1,695 rushing yards in 2011 before leaving WKU.

There was a time when Andrews first joined WKU that he claimed he was better than Rainey. Andrews recalls a time when he told former WKU coach Willie Taggart that he was better than Rainey.

Andrews not only topped Rainey’s record last year with 1,728 yards, but he has the chance to eclipse his own on senior day for the Toppers (7-4, 3-3 Sun Belt Conference) Saturday against Arkansas State (7-4, 5-1 SBC).

The senior currently sits at 1,611 yards on the season with one game left to play in the regular season, meaning that only 117 yards separates him from breaking his own record, and if his 146 yards per game average holds true, that task will come easily.

However, adding on to his resume in that fashion isn’t what is on his mind heading into Saturday.

“I’m more worried about getting that eighth win and trying to be bowl eligible,” Andrews said. “Your next game is not promised so do everything you can to control it so we can have another one.”

Coach Bobby Petrino’s offenses have historically been known to be a quarterback’s offense, but thanks to a powerful rushing attack led by Andrews, WKU finds itself sitting pretty riding a three-game win streak with a chance to all but secure its postseason life with a win Saturday against the Red Wolves.

Andrews’ versatility has allowed him to fit well into Petrino’s offense, making him the only player in the country with over 1,000 rushing yards (1,611) and 400 receiving yards (420) this season. While he leads the nation with 2,418 all-purpose yards, he only needs 41 to have back-to-back years as the NCAA all-purpose yards leader, surpassing former Mizzou receiver Jeremy Maclin.

All of those reasons point to why coach Petrino says Andrews is “special”.

“Every time you talk about him it’s just how versatile he is, how he can do so many different things,” Petrino said. “Then you look back and see how well he runs the football – his vision, his ability to cut, his power. It was nice to see him take it the distance the other night and get out and score some big plays for us. He’s an excellent football player.

“But more than that is when you have a guy that’s your best runner, your best offensive weapon and he practices as hard as anybody, or harder than anybody, it helps your entire team.”

Petrino will need Andrews to capitalize off his 204 yard, three touchdown performance from WKU’s 38-7 win at Texas State heading into the season finale against Arkansas State, a matchup that has proven to be a tight one between the two schools in recent years.

Senior offensive lineman Luis Polanco has been a part of the many of those games, saying the Red Wolves know a lot about the Toppers and vice versa, but WKU’s new offense should give Arkansas State more than it can handle.

In the seven meetings between the two schools the series is tied at 3-3-1, but the home team has never won. In last season’s contest, Andrews ran for 215 yards over the Red Wolves in the Toppers’ 26-13 win in Jonesboro, Ark.

With a win, WKU will move finish the year 8-4, a record the school hasn’t touched in its short four years in the FBS. Andrews, Polanco and the rest of the seniors want to change the tradition of the series with Arkansas State that has left the home team with a loss.

“We’re trying to do something we haven’t done in the past,” Polanco said. “That’s one thing we’ve been talking about amongst each other. Let’s get this eighth win and for us because that’s going to be a part of our legacy when we get done playing.”