CMU football finds success in run game against Notre Dame

Junior running back Myles Bailey is hit by Notre Dame's Xavier Watts during a game, Saturday, Sept. 16 at Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana. Bailey scored one touchdown and rushed 59 yards.

When redshirt freshman quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr. didn’t run out of the tunnel with Central Michigan football on Saturday, the Chippewas had to face off against No. 9 Notre Dame without their leading rusher. 

However, two running backs, Marion Lukes and Myles Bailey, stepped up in the moment, combining for 115 yards rushing and 149 total yards. 

“They look like they belong, and we had some other guys that look like they belong, and that makes you happy,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “Now I don't need the film to go to every one of these schools, so these people come and poach our good players. But at the same time, you know, they ran hard. 

"I thought that the offense put a good scheme together.”

Bailey came into the game against the Fighting Irish off of a 100+ yard performance on 21 rushes against New Hampshire. Against Notre Dame, Bailey had less touches but produced 59 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with a long of 19. 

For the first two games of the season, Lukes focused on kick returns and didn’t get many touches in the backfield for the CMU offense, only securing 10 touches of 19 yards rushing through two games. However, Lukes burst through the scene with his run game Saturday, with 56 yards rushing on nine attempts, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. 

“We are the one-two punch,” Bailey said. “I start off the series: If I get a long break away, you know I tell him to go punch it in. Same with him, if he gets a long break away, I got you, I’m going to punch it in. It’s never selfish.”

The backfield duo came out of the gate strong. In the offense’s second drive of the game that ended in a touchdown from Bailey, Lukes and Bailey accounted for 42 of the 65-yard drive. 

However, the Chippewas couldn’t continue the momentum from that drive, and ended up falling 41-17 to move to 1-2 on the season. 

One reason for the success of the run game is the return of senior offensive lineman Deiyantei Powell-Woods, who came back for the first time this season following an injury. Powell-Woods was named to the All-Mid-American Conference third team in the 2022 season. 

“It starts with the guys up front,” Bailey said. “I told them every day I praise them, I got your back and you got mine, so it starts up there. I just think (Notre Dame) is a regular team you know. We can run the ball on any team in the country really, rather they are ranked number one, ranked number nine, or not ranked at all.” 

The run game has been strong for the Chippewas to begin the season, but that was with Bert Emanuel Jr. as quarterback. This game showed that the offense's backfield can be explosive and a point of emphasis that opposing defenses need to focus on.

“Our guys have a lot of heart,” Bailey said. “They come in and play and know that we got to dominate on every down… I just think that we have to come in and it starts at practice, those little details, little cleanups, and I feel like if we keep doing it over and over again, we can go far.” 

The Chippewas will end non-conference play when they travel to Mobile, Alabama, to face off against South Alabama (2-1) at 5 p.m. on Saturday.