Nichols has career game on national stage in 54-30 win over Kent State
Lew Nichols III kept running the ball.
On Central Michigan's penultimate touchdown drive, a 10-play, 52-yard odyssey, Nichols ran the ball nine times. The ninth run was his most emphatic, as he took a handoff, jump-cut to the right, found a seam and ran straight through the chest of a Kent State defender.
Nichols stretched the ball over the goal line. Touchdown.
It was that kind of night for Nichols, who finished the night with career-high totals in every single category: 43 carries, 215 yards and four touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, 123 of his rushing yards came after contact.
Thanks to his efforts, the Chippewas beat Kent State 54-30 Wednesday night.
Nichols now ranks second in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing yards with 1,294, behind only Michigan State's Kenneth Walker. Just three yards will catapult him into 10th place in CMU history for rushing yards in a season.
Though Brian Pruitt's mark of 1,890 yards seems out of reach with two games left, two exceptional performances could get Nichols as high as second.
Not bad for someone who was slated to split carries before the season.
Nichols entered the year set to share the workload with Kobe Lewis, a 1,000-yard rusher as a sophomore in 2019. Together, the two put up 976 yards in the 2020 six-game season. However, Lewis suffered a non-contact knee injury in fall camp that has sidelined him for the year.
Nichols has established himself as CMU's premiere rusher.
"He's having a fantastic year," said head coach Jim McElwain. "We've got to run the ball to be effective. Offensively, we're effective when Lew gets going. He not only has done a great job running the ball, but he's caught the ball out of the backfield and he's become an every down back because he's become a good pass protector as well."
Nichols lets his play do the talking. The Detroit native has now totaled seven games of at least 100 yards, five of which have gone over 150. Wednesday's game was the first 200-plus yard game of his career.
It just so happened that he did this in front of a national television audience.
"We know the whole nation is watching," Nichols said. "We just try to go out there and put on a good show."
Nichols is the first player to score four rushing touchdowns in a game since Jonathan Ward did it in 2019. Both Lewis and Nichols, who was in the process of redshirting, were on that team.
CMU has now produced four 1,000 yard rushers in the last five seasons. Ward did it twice, Lewis once and now Nichols.
Nichols has the chance, with two more good games, to total the most of all of them. By his side the whole way has been Lewis, who has spent the season on the sideline being a good teammate.
"I would say (Lewis is) pretty proud of me," Nichols said. "He's helped me a lot ever since I got here. Last year, the year before that and even this year. Becoming the main back, he's helped me out a lot."