Winners of four-straight and 12 of their last 14, the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers are off to a 5-1 start to the 2012 season after a 31-26 win over Troy Thursday night. The win over the Trojans gave WKU its ninth-consecutive Sun Belt Conference regular season win dating back to last season, which is currently the second-longest streak in the nation. WKU's stellar start to the 2012 season in thanks in large part to the contributions of five all-America candidates on the Hilltopper roster. Below are summaries of the performances from running back Antonio Andrews, linebacker Andrew Jackson, tight end Jack Doyle, defensive end Quanterus Smith and safety Jonathan Dowling. A one-page document on each of the candidates is also attached.
WKU junior running back Antonio Andrews:
WKU running back Antonio Andrews turned in his fourth-straight 100-yard rushing performance on Thursday against Troy, rushing for 113 yards on 26 carries. Andrews finished the day with 141 all-purpose yards, keeping him at second in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (201.00).
For the season, the junior out of Fort Campbell, Ky., has rushed for 655 yards and has 249 receiving yards, making him one of just four running backs in the nation to have at least 650 yards rushing and 200 yards receiving this season. Andrews’ 141 all-purpose yards on Thursday ended a streak of three consecutive games with at least 210 all-purpose yards, including a career-high 261 all-purpose yards against Arkansas State on September 29.
Andrews currently ranks 22nd in the nation in rushing yards per game (109.17), but ranks sixth among running backs with 249 receiving yards. Andrews also ranks 13th in the nation in punt return average, averaging 14.33 yards per return.
The former Mr. Football award-winner in the state of Kentucky has been honored as the Sun Belt Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week on two different occasions in 2012, and was also honored as a week three honoree by the Paul Hornung award, placing him on the watch list for the award for the most versatile player in the nation. Andrews has also racked in the accolades from the College Football Performance Awards, winning national punt returner of the week and all-purpose performer of the week so far this season.
Andrews took over the reins at running back in 2012 after replacing the program’s all-time leading rusher in Bobby Rainey, who is currently on the practice squad with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
WKU junior linebacker Andrew Jackson:
Linebacker Andrew Jackson set a career high with 11 solo tackles against Troy, leading the Hilltopper defense with 12 total tackles in the game, including one tackle for loss. The 11 solo tackles moved Jackson up to 16th in the nation in solo tackles per game this season, averaging 5.83 per game.
The 12 total tackles marked the second consecutive game that Jackson has posted 12 total stops, as the junior linebacker also led the team in tackles and tackles for loss against Arkansas State on September 29. The 24 total tackles in the last two games are second-most in Jackson’s young career, as he posted 13 stops in back-to-back games last season against Indiana State and Arkansas State.
For the season, the Lakeland, Fla., native has 50 total tackles at the midway point of the year. Through six games in 2011, Jackson had 57 tackles and went on to notch 109 total stops.
Jackson currently ranks fourth in the Sun Belt Conference in tackles for loss per game (1.25) and eighth in total tackles per game (8.3).
Jackson was named to the Butkus Award Preseason Watch List, Bronto Nagurski Trophy Preseason Watch List and the Rotary Lombardi Trophy Preseason Watch List prior to the 2012 season. He was also named 2012 Preseason all-Sun Belt Conference.
WKU senior tight end Jack Doyle:
WKU’s consistent tight end Jack Doyle had five catches for 39 yards against Troy on Thursday, scoring his first touchdown of the season in the first half of that game.
Doyle’s five-catch performance moved him into sole possession of third place on WKU’s all-time receptions list and just 33 catches away from breaking the all-time WKU record set by former Hilltopper receiver Jake Gaebler, who finished his career with 168 grabs. Doyle currently has 136 career receptions, including a team-best 27 catches in 2012.
At the mid-way point of the 2012 season, Doyle has more receptions (27) than he did through six games in 2011 (23). Doyle caught a career-best 52 passes in 2011 and had six games of five receptions or more. The senior out of Indianapolis, Ind., now has a string of nine-consecutive games with three catches or more, with six of those games with five catches or more.
Doyle currently ranks fourth in the nation among tight ends with 27 receptions this season, and ranks 20th in the nation among tight ends with 242 yards receiving.
Doyle was named to the John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List for the second-straight season prior to the 2012 season, while also being named to the Preseason all-Sun Belt Conference team.
WKU senior defensive end Quanterus Smith:
Defensive end Quanterus Smith has received much attention from opposing offensive lines this season, as the senior has notched 6.5 sacks on the year, to go along with 9.5 tackles for loss. Smith averages 1.62 sacks per game, which is good for the fourth-best total in the nation this season.
Despite not recording a sack or a tackle for loss against Troy on Thursday, the Loganville, Ga., native has still posted a sack or a tackle for loss in 11 out of his last 17 starts, with four multi-sack games during that span. Smith currently ranks first in the Sun Belt Conference in both sacks and tackles for loss, which led him to be named the Sun Belt Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week on October 1 following a 3.5-sack performance against Arkansas State.
Smith made his presence known against the nation’s top-ranked team in Alabama in week two, posting 3.0 sacks, with the losses totaling 27 yards. For the year, Smith has earned weekly honors from the College Football Performance Awards on two different occasions, including National Defensive Performer of the Week on September 30.
Prior to the 2012 season, Smith was a preseason all-Sun Belt Conference selection after posting a team-best 7.5 sacks in 2011. Smith is just two sacks away from reaching 20 for his career.
WKU sophomore safety Jonathan Dowling:
Sophomore safety Jonathan Dowling had nine total tackles against Troy on Thursday, including eight solo stops, to go along with one pass breakup. The nine total stops ranked second on the team behind linebacker Andrew Jackson.
Dowling, who ranks third in the nation averaging 0.80 interceptions per game in 2012, currently has 27 tackles on the year from his safety position, ranking fourth on the Hilltopper defense. His four interceptions in five games lead WKU and rank atop the Sun Belt Conference in that category.
The transfer from the University of Florida has burst onto the scene for WKU’s defensive unit in 2012 after sitting out the 2011 season. Dowling guided WKU to a win over Kentucky in week three, intercepting three passes in that game, becoming the first Hilltopper to accomplish that feat since Carl Brazley did so in 1978. Dowling also had an interception and blocked a kick in his first game of the 2012 season against Austin Peay, leading WKU to a win.