Aulbach: Big win provides no clarity on QB situation

WKU freshman quarterback Damarcus Smith prepares to throw the ball downfield during Saturday’s game against Morgan State University.

Lucas Aulbach

For a game that featured so much play from many different passers, we really didn’t learn much about the WKU starting quarterback’s situation from Saturday’s win over Morgan State.

The Toppers were able to handle the Bears over the weekend, thanks to superior play by running back Antonio Andrews — he had 213 rushing yards and a school record five touchdowns — and a physically outmatched opponent, but coach Bobby Petrino acknowledged after the game it’s not every day you can just throw four quarterbacks on to the field and come away with a win.

“We’ll really study the film and evaluate where we’re at, see what we need to do to give us an opportunity to win this next game and then go out and see how we practice,” Petrino said about what his staff will do going forward. “You’re not going to be able to go out there and rotate four quarterbacks in.”

All four quarterbacks on the Topper roster saw the field in the blowout win over the Bears and all four made plays.

Freshman Todd Porter, the surprise starter, went 5-of-10 through the air for 76 yards. He had one great throw, a 56-yard completion on the run to Willie McNeal, and a terrible interception on the next drive.

Sophomore transfer Nelson Fishback, also making his WKU debut, went 3-of-4 for 49 yards and showed wheels on an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Redshirt freshman Damarcus Smith got a chance to run wild, completing 2-of-3 passes for 33 yards along with an interception in the end zone and 31 yards on the ground.

Junior Brandon Doughty, who had his starting job taken from him last week, went a perfect 7-of-7 for 55 yards and looked poised in the pocket.

The fact that all four had strong moments makes it even harder to tell what to take from Saturday’s game.

First of all, the competition was lower than the Toppers will face for the rest of the season — Morgan State is 0-4, with losses to teams much worse than WKU. The Bears are in for a long year.

The fact that each of the Topper quarterbacks played well makes the outlook even cloudier. None of these guys looked head and shoulders above any of the others. Doughty, the one who started the first two games before opening this one on the bench, may have had the best night of anyone, which really makes it clear that any of these guys could get the call Saturday against Navy.

Coach Petrino said Monday it would take some time in practice this week for the coaching staff to evaluate their options and pick a starter. There are bigger problems than WKU’s starting quarterback facing the Toppers heading into the game — Navy averages an NCAA-best 398 rushing yards a game while the Toppers rank No. 95 in the country in run defense and the Midshipmen run the option, a unique style of offense that teams tend to have trouble preparing for.

While WKU spends time preparing for Navy’s complicated offense, the Topper coaches need to take a good look at their quarterbacks on film and on the practice field, because if the Toppers trot out four quarterbacks against the Midshipmen, this time it won’t be because they’re holding an insurmountable lead.