FOOTBALL: Backs provide one-two punch

Michael Casagrande

Coach David Elson said before the season the Toppers’ running game would rest upon the “one-two punch” of tailbacks Chris Miller and Lerron Moore.

An injury to starting fullback Maurice Bradley allowed Miller to fill in last Saturday, joining Moore in the backfield.

Elson likes having both Miller and Moore on the field together because of Miller’s ability to play fullback effectively.

“Chris is a team player, and very versatile,” Elson said. “I give a lot of credit to him that he can do both positions.”

Miller, a senior, began the season as Western’s starting tailback, gaining 160 and 97 yards respectively in victories against Union and West Virginia Tech.

But an impressive showing by Moore, a sophomore, in the Eastern Kentucky game sent Miller to the bench and Moore to the top of the depth chart. Moore netted 134 yards on 24 carries to lead the Toppers in the 36-3 blowout.

“In that Eastern game, Lerron just really got hot, and was playing better,” Elson said. “We are going to go with the guy that is playing better and will give us the best chance to win. Chris is still very much in our plans.”

Miller doesn’t mind taking a back seat to Moore, and is not upset about losing his starting role.

“I give props to Lerron,” Miller said. “He just came out and played harder and ran the ball better than me. If Lerron is not getting it in, then I will step in and back him up and visa versa.”

And Miller doesn’t mind becoming the lead back, just as long as he can contribute.

“Anywhere I can play, it doesn’t matter,” Miller said. “Just as long as I’m in there, helping the team in any way I can.”

After five games, Moore leads the team with 473 rushing yards. But Miller isn’t far behind with 341.

Moore solidified his starting spot with a breakout game Saturday in the Toppers’ 33-28 loss at Western Illinois. He ran over the Leatherneck defense for a career-high 136 yards.

There isn’t much difference in talent, Moore said, but his style is sometimes more conducive to the Western offense.

“I don’t think that I’ve done anything that Chris Miller can’t do,” Moore said. “We are both great running backs. I guess in certain situations, I think I’m a better fit than him.”

The Topper offense is no stranger to making a change at tailback after the first few games of the season.

Last year Bradley was the top running back after the first three games, but senior Jon Frazier took over after Bradley was plagued by fumbles.

Offensive coordinator T.J. Weist likes to have two backs at his disposal because of their contrasting running styles.

Miller is more of a power back who can run over defenders. Moore is a slasher who makes defenders miss.

“He runs hard,” Weist said of Moore. “Lerron has shown some durability and a strong running ability.”

Thompson still out

Linebacker Charles Thompson will miss his second straight game Saturday because of a knee injury he suffered at Auburn.

Thompson is expected to be out at least another week.

Despite missing two games, Thompson is still second in sacks with three, and is the team’s third leading tackler after collecting 37 in four games.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected].