The football team’s running backs did their job against Toledo on Saturday, though the final score did not indicate it.
The benchmark for Central Michigan every game is 150 rushing yards, and the Chippewas tallied 156 in a 38-17 loss.
“That’s a formula we talk to our team about all the time – being able to rush for 150-plus yards in a game – and we did that today,” said head coach Dan Enos. “Unfortunately, we’re on the wrong end.”
The running game was led by sophomore Saylor Lavallii, who rushed for a career-high 144 yards, the most the Rockets have allowed a running back to gain all season. Anthony Garland added 42 yards.
“We ran the ball well today,” Lavallii said. “I’m not really sure about individual stats and stuff, but we’ve just got to win ball games, and I’d rather get a ‘W’ than a career-high.”
Lavallii’s biggest run was for 25 yards to take CMU to midfield right after Toledo extended its lead to 31-17 in the fourth quarter. The drive ended with quarterback Cooper Rush fumbling the ball for the second time in the game.
The offense was aided by a 19-yard run by Lavallii that placed the ball at Toledo’s 39 yard line in the third quarter, but it was another drive that ended in a turnover by Rush, who threw his second interception of the game.
Toledo’s David Fluellen, a first team All-Mid-American Conference running back, was getting outrushed by Lavallii, who had 136, nine more than Fluellen, with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter.
Then Fluellen showed why he has earned recognition, contributing 70 rushing yards on eight carries and a touchdown in a crushing drive that made it 38-17, Toledo, with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets’ running back, who finished with 197 rushing yards, also accounted for a touchdown on the first drive of the game, with a two-yard run out of the wildcat formation.
“I knew they were going to try to get him the ball,” Enos said. “He’s a good back. He’s big. I mean, I’d love to see old 34, (Zurlon Tipton), on a day like today. Those two guys go at it head-to-head.”
Lavallii showed he was going to provide the offense with support on the following drive, which resulted in a touchdown, rushing for 35 yards, including 14 on a pitchout on fourth and one.
CMU’s running backs Lavallii and Garland picked up 61 and 29 rushing yards respectively in the first half, 4.3 away from the game average this season for the Chippewas.