Rushing attack highlights opening night at Kelly/Shorts
Traditionally, the Mid-American Conference is a passing league, but if Thursday’s 38-27 win over Southeast Missouri State is any indication, Central Michigan won’t be following the crowd.
Junior running back Zurlon Tipton ran for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns, and sophomore running back Anthony Garland added 102 yards and a touchdown to spearhead a Chippewa running attack that gained 324 yards at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
“We go into a game with a plan, sometimes the plan doesn’t work out, but we went into this game feeling like we could run the football,” head coach Dan Enos said. “Watching their video, the teams they play usually have success running the ball. We thought there were certain looks and formations we could get into and be successful.”
A major part to the success was the play of the Chippewas experienced offensive line, which include senior tackles Eric Fisher and Jake Olson, senior guard Mike Repovs, junior guard Darren Keyton, sophomore guard Andy Phillips and redshirt freshman center Nick Beamish.
“We have two of the best tackles in the Mid-American Conference in Fisher and Olson,” Enos said. “Those guys are good football players and when they get out and move people, we’ve got a chance.”
CMU also got a nice performance on the ground from freshman running back Saylor Lavallii, who ran for 33 yards on 6 carries in his first collegiate game.
“I wasn’t sure how the game was going to turn out for him,” Tipton said. “At team dinner, he was nervous. He didn’t throw up this game and he usually does that. I’m proud of him, he made some nice runs out there and he’s going to be a great addition to the offense.”
The Chippewas relied heavily on the run, rushing the ball 45 times. In comparison, they threw the ball just 23 times.
“I didn’t think we’d run it 45 times,” Enos said. “I thought it would be a little more balanced, but the way the game was going, we wanted to try and keep their offense off the field and take some time off the clock. We liked the way the formula was working.”
The Chippewas were 10th in the MAC last season in rushing offense. They’re high last season was just 192 yards against Akron. Thursday’s performance is a good sign that things will be different in 2012.
“It’s pretty simple really,” Tipton said. “Whoever is in the game has to make plays. That gets the other one fired up to go in and make a play. We want to match each other’s intensity. I love watching Anthony run.”
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