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HomeSportsUT
Published: Monday, 11/5/2001

Taylor can set Rocket record

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Tailback Chester Taylor has had his sights set on becoming the University of Toledo's all-time leading rusher since the beginning of the season.

With 74 yards rushing tomorrow night against Western Michigan in the Glass Bowl, Taylor would own that mark, passing Wasean Tait.

Taylor has 4,080 career rushing yards; Tait 4,153.

“It will be exciting to get the record,'' said Taylor, who already is UT's career leader in touchdowns with 54. “I will feel like I came here and left my mark and accomplished something good at Toledo.''

Taylor, a fifth-year senior, was slowed by a sprained right ankle most of last month. But he had a breakout game against Navy nine days ago, carrying a career-high 38 times for a season-high 195 yards and two touchdowns. It marked the 21st time he had gained 100 yards or more in his career, also a school record.

Taylor leads the nation in scoring entering tomorrow's nationally televised game on ESPN, averaging 14.6 points per game - 17 touchdowns (15 rushing) for 102 points. He also is the leading rusher in the Mid-American Conference, averaging 121.6 yards.

“The rushing record would be a great accomplishment for Chester,'' coach Tom Amstutz said. “We've had a history of good running backs at Toledo.''

Amstutz, a long-time UT assistant before becoming the head coach this year, was the one responsible for recruiting both Taylor and Tait. The duo played at Detroit-area high schools - Taylor at River Rouge; Tait at Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher.

Taylor, 5-11 and 205 pounds, is a two-time first-team All-MAC running back. He has gained 851 yards on 163 carries (5.2 average) and is headed for his third straight 1,000-yard season, barring injury. He was runner-up for the MAC's MVP award last season as well as runner-up for offensive player of the year.

Tait, 5-9, 195, was a second-team All-American and the MAC's player of the year and offensive player of the year in 1995, when he gained 1,905 yards on 357 carries, both school records. That total did not include the 185 yards Tait gained in being named co-MVP of UT's Las Vegas Bowl victory over Nevada.

Tait also strung together a school-record 11 consecutive 100-yard games that season.

“Their running styles are totally different,'' Amstutz said. “Wasean was a guy who really used his quickness and acceleration and had a jitterbug style of running. Chester is kind of a slashing, power runner with breakaway potential.''

Taylor and Tait, who could not be reached for comment, did play together at times in the same backfield in 1998.

Taylor, who was offered a scholarship by Western Michigan coming out of high school, enrolled at Toledo in 1997, but was ineligible to play as a freshman because he was ruled a partial academic qualifier by the NCAA.

Tait, meanwhile, blew out his knee in the first game of the 1996 season. He had numerous operations and didn't make it back for two years. He rushed for 625 yards in 1998; Taylor 583.

“Wasean taught he how to read defenses and how to find holes,'' Taylor said. “He also taught me how to get open for passes. We roomed together on the road that year and became friends. We're still good friends.''

Taylor earned his undergraduate degree in sports administration this past summer and took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows for a fourth year of eligibility for students who entered as partial qualifiers, pending graduation within four years.

He ranks eighth in rushing in MAC history. With 288 more yards, he would pass Miami's Deland McCullough for No. 2 on the conference's all-time list.

The past two seasons, Taylor has gained 268 yards on 41 carries against Western Michigan while averaging 6.5 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns. The Rockets, on the other hand, have beaten the Broncos 10 of the past 12 meetings, including five straight at home.

Ball State (4-4, 3-0 MAC West) currently sits atop the division. Northern Illinois (5-4, 3-1 MAC West) is second, followed by Toledo (6-1, 2-1 MAC West) and Western Michigan (4-4, 1-1 MAC West).

The loser of the UT-WMU game will be eliminated from the division race. The Rockets, who lost to Ball State 24-20 on Oct. 20, were the preseason favorites to win the West and MAC title.

“It's a huge game for us,'' Taylor said. “We have to find a way to win.''



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