Starting quarterback job still up for grabs

WKU’s Todd Porter throws over the line during their game against Morgan State at Western Kentucky University on Saturday, September 21, 2013. 

Elliott Pratt

Many questions still remain with the quarterback role heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff against Navy.

Since coach Bobby Petrino announced a possible change last Thursday before the Morgan State game, not one quarterback has looked like the sole front-runner for the starting job.

Junior Brandon Doughty started the first three games for WKU after earning the starting role in the spring. But an NCAA-high eight interceptions during that time and a 1-2 start to the year raised concern for the right leader of the offense.

The result was true freshman Todd Porter earning the starting nod in Saturday’s 58-17 win over Morgan State, but all four quarterbacks on the roster saw significant game time.

Petrino said he wants to explore all options and use the quarterback that best fits what the offense wants to accomplish, so a starter won’t be named just yet.

“We have to see how the week plays out this week and where we are at,” Petrino said. “I did really think it was good for our football team. I thought it was good for our quarterbacks, our youth at the position and us trying to learn about how we operate the offense.”

Doughty was the last of the Topper quarterbacks to enter the game, but proved his accuracy during his short outing by completing all seven passing attempts for 55 yards.

Sophomore Nelson Fishback showed his versatility both in the air and on the ground. The Butte College transfer went 3-of-4 for 47 yards and an 11-yard touchdown run on a bootleg keeper in the second quarter.

Redshirt freshman Damarcus Smith completed two of his three passing attempts while gaining 31 yards on the ground from four carries

The starter Porter led the quarterbacks with five completions on 10 attempts for 76 yards, including a 56-yard toss to junior wide receiver Willie McNeal.

Working on the deep ball is an area Petrino would like to see the offense improve, he said Monday. The Toppers tried a few deep throws against Morgan State, but the result didn’t work in their favor.

McNeal said he believes improvement relies on the receivers to do their part just as much the responsibility falls on the quarterback.

“Just speeding up coming off the ball,” McNeal said. “Giving the quarterback confidence in us to throw it up there and hope that we’re going to make a play.”

McNeal said it wasn’t difficult playing with all four quarterbacks, and said the week of preparation with all of them helped in the game.

From a receiver’s standpoint, the decision on a starting quarterback doesn’t impact the group, and they’ll play to the tune of whatever the coach decides.

“I don’t care who the quarterback is,” McNeal said. “Whatever plan coach has set up, I’m pretty sure it’s the best plan for us. If we go four quarterbacks every game or one quarterback, I just run my route the best I can to get open and make plays.”

Despite no passing touchdowns to factor into the 58 points scored Saturday, Petrino said he was still pleased with the quarterbacks’ performance. The coach said the coaches will once again have a better idea of who will start Saturday after evaluating the coming week’s practice.

“I think they did a great job in the week in their preparation and working hard for it,” Petrino said. “It was a great motivating factor. We have to see how the week plays out this week and where we’re at and how we’ll play against Navy.”