Cue the quarterback controversy.
Western Kentucky could make a change Saturday at its most pivotal position, going from junior Brandon Doughty to one of three backups on the current roster.
“I don’t know yet,” first-year WKU coach Bobby Petrino said when asked who the Tops’ starting quarterback will be. “What we’ve done is open it up, just like all the other positions that we go through the week, we evaluate effort and how we do. We had a decent practice (Thursday), and we’ll evaluate it just like we do every other position and then make a decision either (Thursday) or probably (today).”
Doughty has started all three games for the Hilltoppers (1-2) this season, winning the job coming out of spring practice and holding onto it throughout fall camp.
His debut in Petrino’s offense was sparkling, throwing for 271 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 35-26 win over Kentucky. But things soured quickly from there.
On Sept. 7 at Tennessee, Doughty threw five interceptions – two that went for touchdowns the other way and two that occurred in the UT end zone going in. The Tops lost 52-20 as Doughty went 17 of 34 for 222 yards and a touchdown.
Things appeared back on track last weekend when Doughty directed WKU to a 21-10 lead at halftime and the junior went 15 of 19 for 143 yards and three touchdowns. In the second half, Doughty went 12-for-28 and threw three interceptions – one of which would have been a pick-6 had a penalty not negated the score.
“Well, it’s hard on him, obviously,” Petrino said of his possible demotion. “It’s disappointing. But we had real good meetings today and he’s got a real positive attitude and he’s a great teammate. His teammates voted him captain, and he’s been very positive. He’ll get his opportunity back, there’s no question in my mind.”
True freshman Todd Porter has not played a snap in a WKU uniform, but is currently No. 2 on the depth chart at the position.
As a senior at O’Fallon High School in Illinois, he threw for 3,009 yards. He holds school passing records for touchdowns in a career (45), passing yards in a career (6,200) and career completions (319), among others.
A dozen programs – all from either non-BCS programs or the FCS level – took a look at Porter before the 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound QB committed to WKU in January after an in-home visit from Petrino.
“I think they’re going to see a very athletic quarterback, a very strong arm, very confident,” said Brandon Joggerst, Porter’s coach at OHS. “He has tremendous ability and tremendous upside. I think you’re going to see someone that’s going to take charge of the huddle and, even though he’s only a freshman, someone that’s going to go in there and command some presence. There’s a lot of positives that he can bring.”
DaMarcus Smith is the only other quarterback with any experience on the roster, having played late in the loss at Tennessee. The redshirt freshman was 0-for-2 passing and rushed for nine yards.
Sophomore Nelson Fishback, a transfer from Butte College in California, has also yet to see the field.
“We evaluated the (South Alabama) game and we’re turning the ball over too much,” Petrino said. “Like I said before, any time you turn it over, it’s the entire offense’s responsibility. But a week ago we made every position available for competition except for the quarterback position. We decided to include them all (this week).”
As has been customary on Thursdays during the season, no players were available to the media.
Allen a gametime decision
WKU running back Leon Allen is a gametime decision when WKU hosts Morgan State at 6 p.m. Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium.
Petrino said Allen has been dealing with bruised ribs that he suffered during the 31-24 loss at South Alabama. Allen rushed for 40 yards on eight carries, caught two passes for 20 yards, but didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
The sophomore has 184 yards rushing on 31 carries this season and has scored twice on the ground.