As Kedrick Rhodes took hold of FIU’s starting running back position last year and set a school record for rushing yards in a season, Darian Mallary could only watch.
On Saturday against Akron, when Rhodes got battered into watching, Mallary took the baton he has been waiting to grasp for a year.
“Last year, I was coming back from a broken fibula,” Mallary said. “I didn’t really get a chance to play because I wasn’t feeling like myself. Now I’m getting my feel back for the game. Coach finally trusts me again. I’m starting to get more carries each game. I really appreciate it. Every time I get the ball, I try to make something big happen.”
In Saturday night’s 41-38 overtime win, what Mallary made happen on 14 carries was 60 yards, two touchdowns and the overtime workload for FIU.
He also caught one pass for 11 yards. He would have had three touchdowns if he hadn’t spun out shifting gears in overtime. He skidded to the turf with a 7-yard gain to the 13, still a first down.
After flat outrunning Akron’s secondary on his 32-yard touchdown run earlier, Mallary thought the safety might take a better angle so he decided to cut.
“I tried to do too much with it,” Mallary said with a laugh.
Mallary, a Gulliver High graduate, ran for 679 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2010 before getting injured in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.
Last year, as a junior, he got into only six games and ran for 11 yards.
Rhodes played the first half Saturday and, along with quarterback Jake Medlock, took a battering.
Rhodes got hit on his 11 carries (47 yards). He got hit on his two receptions. He got hit on read option plays when Medlock kept the ball. Akron clearly keyed on Rhodes, leaving large gaps for Medlock early.
FIU coach Mario Cristobal admitted after the game Rhodes was “a little banged up, but I don’t see anything serious with Ked.”
Medlock, who set an FIU record for quarterbacks with 141 rushing yards, got shaken up during the first half.
“I think he got winded on those couple of long runs,” Cristobal said. “After that, we had to haul him back in. He just wasn’t himself for a few series. Then, the second half, he started getting on that roll again.”
Also leaving the game because of injury was senior Alex Robinson, a backup linebacker who plays mostly on special teams.
“I thought our kickoff team got a whole lot better, and Alex is one of the reasons,” Cristobal said. “He plays a key role. He went down there and got caught in the turf.”