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Viking makes run at a record

Kavanaugh rushes for more yards than any Big Sky quarterback
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Portland State senior Connor Kavanaugh is on pace to set the career record for rushing yards by a Big Sky Conference quarterback.

When Portland State quarterback Connor Kavanaugh has the ball in his hands, he sees things a drop-back passer probably wouldn’t see. He processes the angles linebackers will take to tackle him. He detects holes opening in the line. Suddenly, Kavanaugh is gone. Scrambling, dodging tackles, running into the open field, cutting back and diving into the end zone. It has become a very familiar scene at Portland State games over the last two seasons. In eight games last season as a junior, Kavanaugh rushed for four TDs and 506 yards —the most by any quarterback in Portland State history. This season, Kavanaugh has run for six TDs and 807 yards, breaking the Big Sky single-season quarterback rushing record of 686 set by Lance Kriesien of Northern Arizona in 2007. With three games remaining, Kavanaugh has 1,711 career rushing yards. He is just 115 yards shy of the Big Sky career rushing record for a quarterback held by Idaho’s Ken Hobart (1980-83). Though he knows that he is inching closer to the record, Kavanaugh says he does not even know what the mark is. “People said I’m a few hundred yards away,” Kavanaugh says. “I don’t know the exact record, but I know that I’m close.” When he played for Lincoln High, Kavanaugh knew he could carry the ball, but he never imagined that he would be breaking school and conference rushing records in college. “I was never fast,” Kavanaugh says. “I was elusive. But never like I’m going to outrun the cornerback and go 80 yards for a touchdown. I could make plays with my feet, but, I never thought I would come into college and break rushing records.” When he first came to Portland State, Kavanaugh wanted to get onto the field any way possible. Playing behind a prototypical drop-back passer in Drew Hubel, the fastest road to being in the lineup was being fast on the field. “Early on, they dubbed me —because Drew was a terrific passer —as a running quarterback,” Kavanaugh says. “But even back then, breaking records never crossed my mind.” Kavanaugh, 6-0 and 185 pounds, has passed for 855 yards and five TDs this season. He ranks ninth in the conference in passing yards per game. But it is his ability to run the ball that has added another dimension to the Vikings’ pistol offense. He is third in the Big Sky in rushing with 100.9 yards on the ground per game. “It’s huge in keeping teams honest and not just being able to key on the running back,” Vikings coach Nigel Burton says. Kavanaugh’s running taken a lot of pressure off true freshman Shaquille Richard, who was forced to become the Vikings’ main running back after Cory McCaffrey was lost for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon against Montana. “I don’t ever go out and try to do too much,” Kavanaugh says. “Once I start feeling like I need to do more than what’s expected of me, I start forcing things, and that’s when the offense starts hurting.” The Vikings (5-3, 3-2 Big Sky) are still fighting for a spot in the FCS playoffs going into Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Sacramento State (3-5, 2-4) at Jeld-Wen Field. Although he is so close to the conference record, Kavanaugh says he would take Portland State winning the final three games instead of him rushing for 115 more yards. “If you start running the football for records and not for wins, that’s when things start going bad,” he says. “I know that if we keep on winning and we keep doing what we’re capable of doing, those records will take care of themselves.”