Aulbach: WKU’s win comes on Andrews’ back

WKU’s Antonio Andrews looks at the jumbotron as he returns the opening kickoff during their game against Morgan State at Western Kentucky University on Saturday, September 21, 2013.

Lucas Aulbach

The quarterback position was a revolving door for WKU Saturday against Morgan State, but Antonio Andrews was a constant for the Toppers all night.

The senior running back had posted good but not spectacular numbers coming in to Saturday’s game. A few unfortunate fumbles and strong play from sophomore running back Leon Allen had cut into Andrews’ production through the first three games.

If that wasn’t enough, Andrews took carries from four quarterbacks – freshman Todd Porter, sophomore Nelson Fishback, redshirt freshman Damarcus Smith, and junior Brandon Doughty – at different points throughout the night.

If he plays the rest of the year like he played Saturday, though, it won’t matter who the Toppers trot out at quarterback.

Andrews was all over the field Saturday night — at one point he looked like he might make another run at Barry Sanders’ NCAA record of all-purpose yards in a season in just one game.

His first play — a 65-yard touchdown run in the first 10 seconds of the first quarter — set the tone for the next 59 minutes.

“It’s always exciting to hit them with a big play to start the game off,” Andrews said. “That just gave us the momentum, and we just kept it from there.”

He finished with 291 all-purpose yards — 213 on the ground (on 17 carries), 19 on kick returns and 58 returning punts.

He lived in the end zone Saturday, scoring a school-record five touchdowns over the course of the first three quarters. Andrews almost outgained the Bears by himself — his 291 all-purpose yards were just 26 short of breaking Morgan State’s total of 317 yards on offense.

Coach Bobby Petrino said Andrews was the most impressive player on the field for WKU.

“Really the good part of the night was Antonio Andrews — to see him run and play the way he did and see him break the record is great, because he’s a guy that comes to practice every day with a smile on his face, works hard and enjoys his work,” the coach said after the game. “He enjoys practice and he enjoys playing in the game. I was really happy for him.”

I know it’s just Morgan State, an 0-4 FCS team with losses to Robert Morris and Liberty. But Andrews needed a breakout game like this — he’s had 99 rushing yards or more in each of the three games before Saturday, but against the Bears, he finally looked like the all-purpose Paul Hornung Award candidate he’s supposed to be. No fumbles, no miscues between him and the quarterback — it was just a day at the races for the senior.

Andrews looked great, but that’s about the only answer that came out of the game.

The four Topper quarterbacks combined to go 17-of-24 for 211 yards and two picks. Petrino said he would continue to evaluate the group in practice this week before naming a starter for next Saturday’s game against Navy.

The WKU receivers had a mostly mistake-free evening, with junior Willie McNeal leading the way with 85 yards on three catches.

The defense let the Bears move up and down the field at times but held the Morgan State offense to a safety at one point and hit hard throughout the night.

The Toppers did what they needed to do Saturday — they came out and dominated an opponent that they were supposed to dominate. That might not seem like much, but for a team looking for consistency after a loss to South Alabama a week ago, it’s a good start moving forward.