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Youthful backfield steps up

November 12, 2002

With senior tailback Dawan Moss serving an indefinite suspension, the MSU football team was forced to call on the future of its running attack - and the call was answered.

In the Spartans' 56-21 thrashing of Indiana, freshmen tailbacks David Richard and Jaren Hayes showcased their version of "thunder and lightning" as they combined for 224 yards and three touchdowns. MSU rushed for 289 yards as a team.

In the first start of his career, Richard routinely dragged defenders for extra yardage as he burrowed to a career-high 136 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Richard, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder, said he was motivated by his game against Michigan on Nov. 2. He carried the ball seven times for 20 yards.

"I took it upon myself to have a better performance than I did last week," Richard said. "And I just wanted to make sure that I was mistake-free out there. The offensive line did a great job blocking for me and all I had to do was run to daylight."

While Richard used redemption as motivation, his counterpart was making a return to the backfield.

Prior to Saturday, Hayes had just three carries in Big Ten games this season - his last carry came against Minnesota on Oct. 19 - as most of his playing time has come on kickoffs. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound tailback had success between the tackles using his shiftiness and speed to burst through the holes.

"All of my big runs were on the inside zone plays," Hayes said. "I read my keys pretty good, and I just hit the hole and ran hard and that's what I had to do."

In MSU's five-touchdown second quarter, the freshmen backs coupled for the last three scores. Hayes reached the end zone on scampers of 8 and 6 yards, which sandwiched Richard's leaping 1-yard touchdown.

Hayes scored early, however, and picked up the majority of his 82 yards in the second half on a worn-down Indiana defense. In the third quarter, he darted for runs of 20 and 22 yards, his two biggest gains.

The young running backs impressed senior right guard Paul Harker.

"You can tell they just have so much hunger, and they're so excited to be playing the game," he said.

"And when they get a chance, they're just hitting the hole a million miles per hour. It's really fun to see the level of energy that they're bringing to the game."

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