You have to run to win football games — that’s what Idaho running backs coach Jason Shumaker says.
“That’s one of our big sayings and you got to run to win and so that’s where we needed to improve and we did improve and we won,” Shumaker said. “So I think our guys see that and that’s just giving us more energy to keep working hard every day in practice.”
The Vandals got their running game going in their 41-38 win against Wofford Saturday at the Kibbie Dome.
Idaho will open Sun Belt Conference play against defending conference champion Georgia Southern at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Kibbie Dome.
The Vandals rushed for 198 yards against Wofford and sophomore running back Aaron Duckworth scored three touchdowns in the game.
Senior running back Elijhaa Penny, who rushed for 98 yards on 19 carries Saturday, was happy for Duckworth.
“He really deserved it because I was banged up a little bit last week,” Penny said. “My knee was a little banged up so he was taking more reps last week. So he worked hard all week and it paid off for him in the game on Saturday.”
Shumaker said Duckworth made the most of his opportunities Saturday.
“Duck has been working hard and it’s all about getting your opportunity and making the most of it and he obviously did that scoring three touchdowns on 12 carries,” Shumaker said. “But it’s something we always knew Duck had. Sometimes the timing’s got to be right to get in the game and then when he got in the game he made something happen and that’s going to bode well for him in the future.”
Shumaker said Duckworth’s confidence should increase after the Wofford game.
“I mean he scored three touchdowns and did a lot of really good stuff and so he should be confident and we’re confident in him so his opportunity to participate and contribute is just going to continue to grow,” Shumaker said.
Duckworth, Penny and even sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan got involved in the running game. Linehan’s 50 rushing yards came on plays in which he escaped pressure and picked up yards, including a 34-yard scamper.
Shumaker said part of Idaho’s running success Saturday stemmed from a good week of practice.
“I think our guys worked really hard in practice,” Shumaker said. “We had a really good week of practice and those guys really did a much better job of running through contact and breaking tackles and I think that definitely showed up on Saturday. When you make more big plays then you get more opportunities to run the ball and we really took advantage of that.”
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CabezaGarrett