Football Notes: Rainey record equals free meal for WKU offensive line

Brad Stephens

Bobby Rainey could break the WKU career rushing record on Saturday against Troy.

But the senior running back’s wallet may take a hit in the process.

Rainey said he promised to take his offensive line to dinner should he gain at least 82 yards against the Trojans and break former Topper Lerron Moore’s 4,396-yard mark.

“Wherever they want to go, that’s where we’ll go,” Rainey said. “They deserve it more than one time but my pocket can only hold one time.”

Senior left tackle Wes Jeffries said he hadn’t yet decided where he wanted to go eat, but said he had no doubts Rainey will set the new school rushing mark on Saturday.

“We’re going to get it,” Jeffries said. “Bobby’s going to be Bobby, best running back in the league, I think. He’ll get it.”

Rainey is averaging 133.45 rushing yards per game this season, trailing only Oregon running back LaMichael James’ mark of 142.78 yards.

Rainey, the defending Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week, is also third among active Football Bowl Subdivision players with 21 career 100-yard rushing performances.

Junior right guard Adam Smith said Rainey’s individual accomplishments mean as much to the offensive line as they do to Rainey himself.

“It’s a great sense of pride to have a running back like Bobby with all the accomplishments he’s had,” Smith said. “Bobby does a lot for himself, but at the same time he knows that we help him out, that we open the holes for him, and he recognizes us.”

Jeffries, who will play his last game in Smith Stadium on Saturday, said Rainey getting the school rushing record would rank “pretty high” on a list of his own career highlights.

“I’ve been blocking for him for as long as he’s been here,” Jeffries said, “so I think of that as an accomplishment for me too.”

Brown emerging at receiver

Ever since junior wide receiver Marcus Vasquez’s season ended with an anterior cruciate ligament tear on Sept. 17, WKU hasn’t gotten many catches from its receiving corps.

Junior tight end Jack Doyle leads the team with 46 receptions and Rainey is second with 36.

The highest total among wide receivers falls to freshman Boe Brand, who has 14 catches on the year.

But redshirt freshman Rico Brown has emerged in recent weeks as a potential go-to target in the WKU passing game.

Brown caught just three passes in the Toppers’ first six games.

But the former Madison Southern High School standout has caught a ball in every game since, and even ran for 10 yards on a reverse in WKU’s 31-21 win over North Texas on Saturday.

Offensive coordinator Zach Azzanni said he sees Brown developing into one of the team’s main targets in future years.

“He’s certainly an explosive kid who plays extremely hard and that’s what I love about the kid,” Azzanni said. “Anytime a kid plays hard you can polish some other things up. It’s getting them to go hard that’s the issue sometimes for young guys, and he’s the opposite.”

Beard not in pads

Senior safety Ryan Beard was on the practice field on Tuesday, but was not wearing shoulder pads like the rest of the team. 

Beard didn’t play against North Texas last week after sustaining a shoulder injury in the first half of WKU’s Nov. 12 loss to Louisiana State. 

Head Coach Willie Taggart said on Monday that the former Bowling Green High School standout will rehab throughout the week and was unsure if Beard will play against Troy on his Senior Day Saturday.

Sophomore Kiante Young replaced Beard last week against the Mean Green.

Young led the team with seven tackles and grabbed his second career interception in the win.