That means senior running back Lerron Moore has one more chance to show off his skills against the best collegiate competition, when the Division I-AA Hilltoppers play No. 15 Georgia at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Sanford Stadium.
"I think any running back would feed off having 100 yards plus off a team like Georgia," said Moore, who had 12 carries for 42 yards against Auburn last year. "They play great football down there. That's would be any college running backs dream." Moore, 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, has 17 100-yard games in his career, the second-most in school history and fifth all-time in the Gateway Conference.
Western Kentucky coach David Elson would like to see the man who's all but certain to leave school as the Hilltoppers' leading rusher get a chance to play after this season. (It's not like the Hilltoppers have never produced an NFL back. Verron Haynes transferred to Georgia after rushing for 305 yards on 59 carries as a true freshman at WKU in 1997 and is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.)
"Some people might say (Moore) is undersized, but I think there's a good trend of the shorter, stocky runners now," Elson said. "As a defensive coach, I hate going against guys like Lerron. They're tough, and they're hard to tackle."
Regardless of his output Saturday, Moore will become Western Kentucky's career rushing leader later this season unless he is derailed by injury. He'll enter the season with 3,505 career yards, 493 short of the record.
"The record is important to me, but that's not the main reason I'm here," he said. "I tell people this all the time, it would be great but I just want to be national champions. That's my key to success."
The Hilltoppers' rushing record currently belongs to Willie Taggart, now the team's assistant head coach. Taggart set the mark as a triple-option quarterback in the late ‘80s, but he's not protective of his record.
"He's pushing me pretty hard to go ahead and get it," Moore said. "He feels it belongs to a running back."
Moore already would hold the record had he not missed three games and been limited in others the past two years due to hamstring and shoulder injuries. Despite that, he finished second last year in the Gateway Conference with 103.7 yards per game.
Moore, a black belt in Taekwondo, drew recruiting interest from BCS conference schools like Wisconsin, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Arizona after rushing for 3,673 career yards at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, but he got no major offers thanks in part to academic question marks. After sitting out the 2002 season due to academics, he rushed for 1,490 yards as a true freshman at Western Kentucky.
"We really thought we were getting a steal quite honestly," Elson said. "Ever since he stepped foot on the field, you could tell he had a lot of ability and a lot of the characteristics you want in a football player. We kind of knew pretty early he was going to be something special."
2005 Division I-AA statistics
Rushing 14th 228.6 ypg
Rushing defense 113.1 ypg allowed
Passing 70th 177.2 ypg
Passing defense 100th 231.4 ypg allowed
Scoring 27th 30.1 ppg
Scoring defense 64th 26.5 ppg allowed