As they break off long gains in the spring season, the two leading FCS players in rushing yards per game have degrees of separation with past Walter Payton Award finalists.
Through three games, Sacred Heart junior Julius Chestnut and UIW senior Kevin Brown rank 1-2 in the nation with 181.3 and 167.7 rushing yards per game, respectively.
Brown has three straight games averaging over 10 yards per carry with at least 10 carries. The only other FCS player to do that in the last 10 years was Chestnut during a three-game stretch in 2018.
Overall, Brown has carried the ball 36 times for 503 yards and a 14-yard average, although, incredibly, he’s been somewhat in the shadow of quarterback Cameron Ward’s passing exploits during UIW’s 3-0 start in the Southland Conference.
Sacred Heart’s 2-1 start in the Northeast Conference has been all about Chestnut, who has gained at least 150 rushing yards, 200 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in each game. The last FCS player to produce that line over three consecutive games was Monmouth’s Pete Guerriero in November 2019 – right before he tied for third in the Payton Award voting for national offensive player of the year.
Chestnut, also the FCS spring leader in all-purpose yards per game (233) and touchdowns (10), is the first player with 150 rushing yards, 200 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in the first three games of a season since Georgia Southern quarterback Jayson Foster opened his 2007 Payton Award-winning campaign.
Brown and Chestnut hope to keep running away from defenders this weekend, when No. 13 UIW visits No. 17 Nicholls on Saturday and Sacred Heart visits Wagner on Sunday.
Stats Perform presents the Walter Payton Award, now in its 34th season.