ATHENS, Ohio – It is common for a running back to set a new career-high in rushing yards on a few occasions in his first season starting.
Not like this, though.
Central Michigan running back Saylor Lavallii is outdoing his previous numbers frequently this season, setting another career high of 184 rushing yards at Ohio on Saturday.
“He’s tough,” said head coach Dan Enos. “He’s got great vision, great patience on his runs. And 215, 216 pounds is a big back, too, and he catches the ball fairly well. He’s just growing up right before our eyes.”
The running back’s first of three carries of at least 30 yards came in the first quarter as he found room to his right and ran for 30 yards, contributing to a touchdown drive that gave CMU a 7-3 lead.
On another run, Lavallii ran untouched until he reached Ohio’s 25 yard line and then stumbled to its 17 for a 38 yard rush on a field goal drive. That increased the Chippewas’ lead to 10-3 with 10:56 left in the second quarter.
He was also there to convert on a third and one, with the help of the offensive line, leaving CMU on Ohio’s five on the game-winning drive late in the game.
“Those are the guys that open up the holes,” Lavallii said of the line. “Whatever the yardage is, as long as we get a W, I’m happy.”
When Lavallii has set career-highs for himself, it has paid off for CMU.
In last week’s victory against Miami (Ohio), he ran for 151 yards, then a career-high, and one of three games in which he has tallied over 140 yards this season.
He also had 93 rushing yards in a win against New Hampshire, which was 25 more yards than his previous record.
Enos continues to say that he could earn even more rushing yards if he would turn long runs into touchdowns.
“We need to take a couple of those all the way,” Enos said. “I mean, that’s where we miss (injured running back) Zurlon (Tipton) a little bit. Not a knock against Saylor. He’s playing great, but we got to have coach (Butch) Barry do some sprints with them next week, so we don’t have to call four more plays after that.”
He also showed he can be a pass catcher as well against Ohio.
Quarterback Cooper Rush found Lavallii for a touchdown to take a 19-17 lead with 9:07 left in the game.