WKU halfback Antonio Andrews improved his rushing total to 727 yards, best in the nation, against Navy.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WDRB) – Antonio Andrews is the best college football player in this state not named Teddy Bridgewater.
Antonio Andrews leads the nation in rushing yards. He's flying at 727 after grinding through Navy for 182 on 32 carries Saturday.
Antonio Andrews has enabled Bobby Petrino to steady this Western Kentucky football season even though the Hilltoppers lack the crackling passing attack that Petrino's teams have always shown.
I could say more, like Andrews is going to play in the National Football League next season because I believe he will. It's time for the official helmet tip – chrome edition -- to Andrews, WKU's senior tailback. He ran from fourth to first nationally in rushing yards against the Midshipmen.
Without him, Western Kentucky does not defeat Navy, 19-7, at L.T. Smith Stadium.
"He was really hot," Petrino said. "He was really running."
There are many things to like about Andrews, the kid Willie Taggart recruited out of Ft. Campbell. He is a thunderous runner who moves through the defense with the urgency of a guy who's double-parked. Andrews is 6 feet and 219 pounds and doesn't care if some people wonder if he has the dimensions of an ideal halfback.
The guy is as durable as your favorite pair of boots. There are many ways to prove that, but I believe this way proves it best: Andrews had more carries in the second quarter (7) than he did in the first (4). He had more in the third (8) than he did in the second. And – you guessed it – Andrews had more in the fourth quarter (13) than he did in the third.
If Secretariat had been a running back, that's the way he would have worked – harder every quarter. That's what Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and 19,812 others saw.
Andrews does not run the football like a guy auditioning for Dancing With the Stars. His idea of rushing is to introduce himself with sincerity to every player on the defensive unit. Andrews' mission statement is to make certain that linebackers understand he is not going away.
"Nobody likes getting hit in the mouth every play," Andrews said. "Eventually you're going to wear a defense down. That's been our philosophy since I came to WKU – and it still is."
Think about this: Navy averaged 398 yards rushing in its first two games against Indiana and Delaware. Antonio Andrews outrushed Navy's triple option attack by 75 yards Saturday – 182 to 107.
Credit WKU defensive coordinator Nick Holt and his unit for their persistent pursuit and confident tackling. But credit Andrews, too. He carried the ball more than any runner has carried it for Petrino since Michael Bush had 37 carries for Louisville against West Virginia in 2005.
"He's great," Petrino said. "When you watch him practice he goes hard every single rep. He runs full speed. He's a high-energy guy. That's fun to have a guy who comes into practice every day with a smile on his face and goes extremely hard."
Vintage Andrews. There were two games in 2012 when he carried the ball more. So he can lug it 35, 40 times. But WKU (3-2) has at least seven games to go. Petrino is still discovering what a special player he has.
WKU managed two touchdowns against the Midshipmen. Andrews scored both of them – one from the 2, the other from the 11. No wonder Andrews surged past Wisconsin halfback Melvin Gordon, Rutgers running back Paul James and BYU quarterback Taysom Hill into the national lead in rushing yards.
Another thing: It's not risky business to ask Andrews to run a pass route. He caught five for another 35 yards. Only Joel German caught more for WKU. Those hands are another reason I believe an NFL team will use him.
"When you've got 5 (Andrews' number) in the backfield you know that you've always got an outlet throwing the ball," said WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty. "When he's running the ball like that, it softens up the defense. Play-action passes and things like that are easy when he's out there."
When Antonio Andrews is running the ball like that, he's the best player in the state not named Teddy Bridgewater.