Kobe Lewis joins Jonathan Ward as first 1,000-yard rushing duo in program history


Sophomore running back Kobe Lewis runs for a touchdown against San Diego State in the New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium. 

Kobe Lewis took a handoff from senior quarterback Tommy Lazzaro in the pistol formation. 

He looked to the left side of the line of scrimmage but saw nothing but San Diego State defenders. 

Lewis, a sophomore running back, looked back to the right and saw nothing but the field at Dreamstyle Stadium. 

With his team behind, 34-3, in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, Lewis sprinted down the right sideline for a 66-yard touchdown Central Michigan needed with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter. 

Individually, he hit a milestone. 

Lewis reached the 1,000-yard rushing plateau after appearing in all 14 games for the Chippewas, who finished 8-6 on the year. Lewis was at 977 yards on the season and gained 97 against the Aztecs. 

"This is a big game for me, a goal that I set for myself," Lewis said. "That's something I wanted really bad and I got it done." 

CMU's rushing attack this season was spurred by Lewis and senior Jonathan Ward -- the leader in the backfield. 

In the Chippewas Week 2 game at Wisconsin, Ward went down with a shoulder injury and Lewis stepped in and filled the role well. Ward missed games against Akron and Miami (Florida), yet still ran for over 1,000 yards.

When Ward returned against Western Michigan on Sept. 28, the two created a dynamic where they split carries and were dangerous for a big play. 

In the Chippewas' regular season finale against Toledo, Ward hit the 1,000-yard mark and finished the season with 1,108 yards. 

Following the 49-7 beatdown of the Rockets, Ward said this year's team was the best-balanced team he has been on during his college career. He said he dynamic he and Lewis had helped create the balance offensively for the Chippewas. 

"I feel as though me and Kobe Lewis are the best backs in the MAC," Ward said, "We help compliment the defense and the defense helps compliment the offense in practice. When you're going against the best all week, that makes the game a little bit easier." 

Ward and Lewis created history as they were the first duo in Central Michigan history to each rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. 

Lewis said he and Ward pushed one another to reach the accomplishment. 

"As a pair, that was a goal we set for each other," Lewis said. "At the beginning of the season, that was something he wanted to see me do and something I obviously wanted to see him do."

As Ward graduates ending his career with 2,539 total rushing yards, the reigns of the backfield go to Lewis as he moves into his junior season. 

Lewis said he was thankful for Ward's leadership and tutelage, especially this season to find his way to the 1,000-yard mark. 

"Me being a young guy, the vision wasn't quite as clear for me," Lewis said. "I appreciate (Ward) for always looking out and giving me tips throughout the season." 

First-year coach Jim McElwain gave credit for much of the team's success to the offensive line for leading the way and creating space for the running backs to work. 

He also said he was happy with getting both guys over 1,000 yards, especially with Ward missing the two games due to the injury. 

"I'm proud of both those guys," McElwain said. "I love the way they work together and compliment each other. Obviously they're a talented duo. I'm really happy for Kobe, he works his tail off."