Aulbach: Who will be next Topper weapon to emerge?

Running back Antonio Andrews (5) during the second half of WKU’s 44-28 victory over Georgia State Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Lucas Aulbach

One thing last Saturday’s game taught us is that any player can have have a break-out game at any time.

Senior running back Keshawn Simpson, who had been given 12 carries between the season-opener against Kentucky, turned into the story of the game against Georgia State by picking up four touchdowns on 10 carries.

Senior fullback Kadeem Jones, a valued weapon under coach Willie Taggart who had been under-used by coach Bobby Petrino this season, shined when he got his chance as well — he hauled in a 16-yard touchdown catch against the Panthers, his first score of the season.

The Toppers have gotten to this point in the season by riding senior running back Antonio Andrews — he leads the nation with 1,290 rushing yards and has been given 202 carries through nine games.

Andrews is WKU’s best weapon on offense, a Swiss Army Knife kind of player who can do it all for the Toppers, from picking up triple-digit rushing yards to helping out junior quarterback Brandon Doughty through the air. But three more sublime performances from Andrews alone won’t be enough to get WKU back in a bowl game — the Toppers are going to need more Jones’ and Simpsons to come out of the woodwork.

Those new weapons might be on the bench behind Andrews. The running game seems to be the strength of the WKU roster this year — along with Andrews, Simpson and Jones, the Toppers have another pair of running backs that impact the game every time they hit the field.

Sophomore Leon Allen showed glimpses of potential last season, racking up 229 total rushing yards and four touchdowns on the year. Similar in size and style to Andrews — both are do-it-all backs who stand around six-foot and aren’t afraid to lay a hit down on defenders — Allen has established himself as the primary back-up at the position this year.

Redshirt freshman Anthony “Ace” Wales, meanwhile, has showed an intriguing skill set as well. He’s a little smaller than Allen and Andrews but is elusive in the backfield and even showed he could take a hit as he laid out a Georgia State defender on a kick return Saturday. He figures to be an important piece for WKU in future seasons, but don’t be surprised if he finds a way to help the Toppers in their last three games this year.

Maybe it’ll be someone from the receiving core that makes a difference. WKU is young at wide receiver, with Taywan Taylor, Nicholas Norris, and Aaron Jackson — all true freshmen — getting consistent playing time so far this year. Petrino has said this year that the Toppers will be a much better team when his receivers mature. Nine games into the season, they’ve got some experience under their belt at this point.

Andrews has been a workhorse for WKU all year, but if WKU is going to capture its second straight bowl berth, the Toppers might be better off sharing some of the load on offense.