If there’s one thing that’s been steadily consistent for Central Washington University just two games in, it’s the running game.

CWU has gained 286 yards on 65 attempts (143 yards per game). But 215 yards are from its incumbent starting back, junior Michael Roots. He’s had two 100 plus yard performances against two perennial squads — Division I FCS the University of Idaho and No. 2 Ferris State University.

Last Saturday versus FSU, he tallied 102 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns. Roots’ 43-yard score — his longest of the season — put the Wildcats within six points early in the fourth quarter after trailing 20 at the half.

The GNAC Newcomer of the Year in 2018 has picked up right where left off last season, a transfer from Southern Oregon who accumulated 1,067 yards on 139 carries with 10 scores in his first season with CWU.

“He had a heck of a game against Idaho, and he had another good one out here,” head coach Chris Fisk said. “He’s a special kid.”

Roots and Cedric Cooper carried most of the workload last season, and CWU likes to add others in the mix as well. But so far this season, Roots has seen the most time in the backfield.

Excluding quarterback and wide receiver rushes, Roots has accounted for 43 of the 48 attempts. In the first game against Idaho, he was the only running back with carries.

“I see myself taking more of a lead role, but we still got a lot of guys in the backfield that can do amazing things,” Roots said. “I’m still sharing reps. So, the love is being spread to all of us, it’s not just a one-man thing. We’re all doing our job.”

His rep sharing is paltry — as of now. Weber State transfer Eric Wilkes earned his first carry in the second quarter versus FSU — a four-yard gain — and senior Zach Floyd (Portland State transfer who sat out in 2018) saw his first in the third quarter, gaining 17 yards on the play.

Floyd totaled 21 yards on three carries, and Wilkes had two carries for three yards.

Going into Idaho, Central planned to utilize a few players — such as Roots — more than it normally would. It felt that it would give them the best opportunity to win against a Big Sky school, according to Fisk.

And CWU had a similar mindset facing off with the 2018 runner-up in the National Championship, FSU.

But the Wildcats are hoping to incorporate the other backs as the season moves on.

“We need to spread the ball a little bit more with those guys to be able to get Roots through an entire season. He’s taking a lot of carries right now,” Fisk said. “But I think Zach Floyd had a few carries, averaged seven yards per carry. Eric Wilkes got a couple carries in there, then also the big kickoff return.

“I don’t have any hesitation getting those guys the ball. We like where we’re at. We’ve played two really good teams. We’ve run for over 100 yards each game. I thought we ran really well last weekend against a strong rush defense.”

CWU is sporting three new offensive linemen this season with redshirt sophomore’s Scottland Vise and Raymond Schalk, and sophomore Josh Alvarez to complement veterans Nicholas Streubel and Will Ortner.

A player who credits the offensive lineman often, Roots said he can’t tell much of a difference compared to the formidable group last year that graduated three seniors (James Moore, Luke Asbjornsen and Chandler Streuli).

But Fisk said the cohort still has some work to do.

“I think we’re right where we should be in the offensive line,” Fisk said. “We’ve had our struggles and we’ve had our successes in the O-line, but those guys come out and work really hard every day.”


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