Aulbach: Saturday a chance for pass attack to get on track

Quarterback Brandon Doughty (12) passes through traffic during the first half of the WKU vs. University of Louisiana Monroe game Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, at Malone Stadium in Monroe, La.

Lucas Aulbach

Last Tuesday against Louisiana-Lafayette, a couple of key interceptions led to a disappointing loss against on of the best teams in the Sun Belt Conference.

This week could be a good opportunity for WKU’s quarterbacks — whoever coach Bobby Petrino decides to send out there — to bounce back.

Petrino experimented at quarterback late against ULL, pulling junior Brandon Doughty for JUCO transfer sophomore Nelson Fishback at times in the fourth quarter. Lafayette excels at stopping the pass, though, ranking second in pass defense in the conference behind WKU and its “Air Force” secondary.

Whichever Topper that comes out under center Saturday against the Trojans should have an easier time.

Troy ranks dead last in the Sun Belt in passing defense. The Trojans are giving up 323 passing yards per game — 53 more than Texas State, who ranks seventh.

The Toppers have thrived on the ground this season. Senior running back Antonio Andrews doesn’t just lead the Sun Belt in rushing yards, he leads the entire NCAA. Calling him a big part of WKU’s offense would be a serious understatement.

But this week might be just what the Toppers needed to get the passing game back on track.

Despite his shortcomings at time this year — his 12 interceptions are second-most this season from all FBS quarterbacks — Doughty has looked good in the pocket for extended portions of the season. Despite the picks (and not all of them have been his fault), Doughty is completing 68.4 percent of his passes and has thrown for an average of 236.9 yards per game, good for third in the Sun Belt. He’s not a bad quarterback when he can avoid turnovers.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm said Doughty’s mistakes are a result of growing pains — this is his first year as a starter.

“He’s got to get better, he’s got to realize that he’s got to make plays with his feet some, take care of the ball and not throw it to the other team,” Brohm said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think he knows what he has to work on, it’s just a matter of getting it done.”

Quarterback play alone won’t win the war through the air for the Toppers, though. The WKU pass-catchers are going to have to step up as well.

All season, dropped passes at crucial times have stifled Topper drives and left the rest of the offense high and dry. Against ULL, a pair of stripped catches from junior tight end Mitchell Henry were the difference in the game — the Ragin’ Cajuns scored touchdowns on the ensuing drives after each fumble. All Doughty can do is get the ball to his receivers — they’re the ones who have to make the plays.

If Doughty (or Fishback) can avoid making mistakes and get ample support from the blockers and receivers, Saturday should be the perfect opportunity for the Topper passing game to find its footing heading into the final games of the season.