Illinois State running back duo turns into a knockout

Illinois State running back duo turns into a knockout
Standout ISU running back James Robinson scored three TDs this week on the ground, and got some help from a teammate. (Photo by Barry Bottino)

To Jeff Proctor, his role Saturday was to do the same thing he’s done all season – give Illinois State teammate and All-American running back James Robinson a break.

Proctor, however, was more than just a fill-in in a 28-14 victory against Western Illinois. He put together his best game of the season and enjoyed a season-high workload with 17 carries.

Jeff Proctor

Jeff Proctor

Proctor’s 81 rushing yards and 46 receiving yards led the team in both categories. He scored his first touchdown of the season from the tailback spot on a 1-yard, fourth-quarter run.

“It’s kind of a nice 1-2 punch we’re developing,” ISU head coach Brock Spack said. “(Proctor) was playing well, so we let him play. It was just the way the rotation worked out.”

Robinson rushed 21 times for 68 yards and three touchdowns, well under his 31 carries against Southern Illinois last week.

Robinson’s 12 touchdowns are the third-highest total in FCS, but Proctor’s workload – which was his first double-digit carry game in a month – is an important development.

“We’ve got to be careful with James,” Spack said. “He had over 30 carries last week.”

“When (Robinson) got tired, I just did what the coaches asked me to do,” Proctor said.

Though they play the same position, the 5-foot-10 Robinson weighs 220 pounds while Proctor is 2 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter.

“He’s faster than James and a little more sudden, and he’s tough,” Spack said of Proctor. “For his size, he’s really tough to bring down, and I like his foot speed.”

Through seven games, the Robinson-Proctor pairing is the second-most productive running back duo in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 1,033 rushing yards (147.6 per game). Only the South Dakota State sophomores Pierre Strong Jr. and C.J. Wilson has been more effective (1,125 yards, 160.7 per game).

When the Redbirds (5-2, 2-1 MVFC) host Indiana State at 2 p.m. Saturday for Homecoming, the workload will be determined on the go.

“Whoever has the hot hand, we’ll play him a bit more,” Spack said.

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