RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State is no Mid-American Conference opponent.
Central Michigan running back Saylor Lavallii can attest to that after rushing for only 16 yards against the Wolfpack on Saturday after getting 144 against conference foe Toledo, last weekend.
“When you play a good defensive line, it’s difficult to run the football,” said head coach Dan Enos. “I’ve seen some good ones over the years, and that’s a good one right there. They’re active; they’re explosive and big.”
The Wolfpack came into the game ranked No. 26 in rushing defense, allowing 110 rushing yards a game.
Lavallii first collided with N.C. State’s defense on the first CMU offensive play, getting tackled in the backfield for a loss of one.
The trend continued through the second quarter.
The score was 14-0 with 9:19 left in the first half, and CMU needed one yard to convert a third down to give its defense a breather. Lavallii took the ball but had nowhere to go and was tackled for a loss of one.
By the middle of the second quarter, CMU had one rushing yard after meeting defenders at every turn.
“The running backs can’t get frustrated,” Enos said. “They can’t start guessing. And they can’t start pitter-pattering their feet.”
The backup running backs had more success than Lavallii, facing a Wolfpack defense that was not feeling any pressure to be aggressive in the second half because of the wide margin of their lead.
Redshirt freshman Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore scored the only rushing touchdown for CMU on a 38-yard run. He finished with 63 yards, while junior Anthony Garland tallied 27 yards.
“Maurce Gilmore came in and hit things and ran hard,” Enos said. “(I) thought he did a good job, but the big thing was our line and tight ends getting beat a little bit and the backs were having to make cuts in the backfield. Whenever you get penetration, your running game’s not going to be very good.”
Receiver Titus Davis was responsible for the other touchdown by CMU. He said there was one thing the offense can look forward to: That is the team will not face another defense of the Wolfpack’s caliber for the rest of the regular season.
“They played hard and they made some things difficult for us. We’re going into the MAC; that’s the good thing,” Davis said. “We won’t see any players like that. Any D-line like that, specifically. So I think they gave our O-line a great work day, and we’re ready to move on to the MAC.”