Bronchos’ Backfield Ready To Run Wild
Running back Clay McKenzie, 23, takes the ball from quarterback T.J. Eckert, 10, during a Fall 2016 football game at Wantland Stadium. (Provided/ Vista Archives).
The 2017 UCO football team will feature a backfield of returning seniors to lead the way as the Bronchos look to have a successful campaign in the fall.
“We’ve been in the system for five years now,” McKenzie said. “We’re pretty confident heading into the season.”
McKenzie returns coming off a 785 rushing yard season with 13 touchdowns. Combined with Gandara’s 606 rushing yards and 6 TD season. Together, McKenzie and Gandara were responsible for 70 precent of the Bronchos’ rushing yards per game and over half of the rushing attempts for the season.
The Bronchos look to build on those performances this season as UCO will have both proven backs healthy and available. “It’s tough taking all of the reps at the college level,” McKenzie admitted, “so it’s nice to have relief through Jake.”
Although both players get similar results, the two running backs have a slightly different style that brings their own flair to the game.
McKenzie, who busts through the middle of the line, powers his way forward. Leading him to a record eight games with at least 100 rushing yards last season. While the elusive veteran, Gandara, has made his mark with the ability to make defenders miss, and can break a long run at any time. “It makes us difficult to game plan for,” McKenzie added.
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A hidden piece of both their games is the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. With a combined 235 receiving yards, Stallard should have a reliable safety net to throw down to.
Stallard looks to take over the reigns of the offense this year. It isn’t his first though, as Stallard started the entire 2014 season and has shared the responsibilities over the last two seasons. Passing for over 4,000 yards in his career and picking up another 1,594 yards with his legs, Stallard is a genuine dual threat.
“His legs help us out in our running game,” McKenzie said. “The option game with him takes some of the defense with him and opens our lanes up.”
Stallard needs only 648 yards to become the all-time leader in total yards gained for the Bronchos. But his team knows he won’t be the one to announce it, “It would mean a lot to him obviously, but he’s humble,” McKenzie said.
Coming into the season the three Bronchos say the only expectation is to give everything they have every game, and to take care of the football. “Having zero fumbles would be huge,” McKenzie stated. “It’s something Jake and I are focusing on.”
A dual threat quarter back under center, and two running backs ready to charge ahead, the offense will have many weapons to choose from. And while records and personal accolades may mean a lot to some; for these three Bronchos, it’s all about winning. “That stuff is great to look back on, but our focus is on getting our team in the best spot to win,” McKenzie stated.
The 2017 season looks to be an exciting one for Bronchos’ football. Lead by UCO’s own three-headed ground attack. “We’re roommates as well as teammates, we all push each other hard.”