BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Bobby Petrino likes to throw the ball all over the field.
Antonio Andrews runs the ball so well the coach has changed his ways with Western Kentucky for now.
Andrews ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers downed Navy 19-7 Saturday, beating the Midshipmen at their own ground game.
The senior running back outgained the nation’s best rushing offense all by himself as Western Kentucky (3-2) held Navy to 107 yards, well below the 398 yards the Midshipmen averaged through the first two games. The Hilltoppers outgained Navy 417-183 in total offense and held the ball 37 minutes.
Petrino called it a great win. And yes, he says the Hilltoppers are a little different on offense.
“We’re running the ball, and we had to just stick to it today and work hard at moving the sticks, work hard at working the clock when we had the lead,” Petrino said. “I’d love to take a couple shots there, but that’s not what we needed to do to win the game.”
Navy (2-1) was trying to start 3-0 for the first time since 2006. The Midshipmen averaged 552 yards offense through two games but just couldn’t keep the chains moving against the Hilltoppers. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds was injured in the second quarter and was replaced by John Hendrick.
“They out-coached us and out-played us, and you have to give those guys credit,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Coach Petrino and his staff, they beat us, they played better than us and coached better than us. Coach Petrino did a better job of getting his team ready. We lost, and I am not going to make excuses.”
The Hilltoppers gave up 410 yards rushing in losing to Navy in 2011. This time, they were ready for the triple option and got their first win over Navy in their third try.
Western Kentucky coaches spent time last winter putting together a defensive plan for Navy and practiced it during the spring and some in August.
“It was just a good plan, and we were more physical and when you’re more physical you got a chance,” Petrino said.
Navy led 7-3 when the Hilltoppers put together their best drive of the day, going 88 yards and chewing more than 6 minutes off the clock. Andrews, the senior who set a school record rushing for five TDs last week, kept the drive alive converting a fourth-and-1. He then capped the drive with his 2-yard run with 5:41, giving the Hilltoppers their first lead of the day.
Andrews finished with a season-high 32 carries, and he helped seal the victory in the fourth quarter. Andrews scored on an 11-yard TD run with 9:39 left.
“We run the ball pretty good,” Andrews said of outrushing Navy. “I feel our backfield is one of the best in the country, so we were doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Western Kentucky’s defense made that hold up.
This was a nearly a home game for Reynolds, who went to high school in Tennessee just over an hour from Bowling Green. But he suffered a head injury late in the second quarter and spent the second half on the sideline wearing a ball cap. He ran only six times for 23 yards and a TD and was just 2 of 4 for 20 yards passing.
Hendrick didn’t do much better. Jonathan Dowling intercepted one of his passes in the third quarter, and Western Kentucky started penetrating so much even handoffs became a challenge. Then Hilltoppers linebacker Xavius Boyd sacked Hendrick in the end zone for a safety with 5:46 left.
“I can’t even tell you how we worked so hard, and I’m just like man I wish the whole defense could be in here with us to talk about this,” Hilltoppers linebacker Andrew Jackson said.
Navy led 7-3 at halftime with the Hilltoppers adjusting quickly to the triple option after Navy went 67 yards on its opening possession with six different Midshipmen getting at least one carry. Reynolds capped the 67-yard drive with his fourth carry, a 1-yard keeper, for a 7-0 lead.
The Hilltoppers started slowing down Navy’s triple option and got on the board with a 30-yard field goal by Garrett Schwettman early in the second quarter. He hooked a 36-yarder wide left just before halftime.
Brandon Doughty, benched as the starter a week ago because of eight interceptions in a two-game stretch, completed his first nine passes only to have his 10th intercepted by Parrish Gaines. Western Kentucky’s defense bailed him out by stopping Hendrick on fourth-and-1, stopping him a couple inches shy of the first down late in the first half.
But Doughty was 25 of 31 for 198 yards.