Kehl Rushes to MIAA Record!
Halfway through the third quarter of Wisconsin Lutheran’s final home football game of 2006, fullback Matt Kehl turned a simple three-yard pitch play into a run to remember.
That carry made Kehl the all-time leading rusher in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association history (MIAA games only), surpassing the mark of 2,586 yards established by Brandon Graham of Hope College (1994-97).
Play was momentarily halted when Kehl broke the record. The unassuming senior raised his hand to the appreciative Senior Day-crowd at Raabe Stadium, received a congratulatory hug from head coach Dennis Miller and took another hand-off from quarterback T.J. Bodnar on the ensuing play.
“When I got the record,” Kehl recalled, “we were in scoring position. I didn’t want any momentum swings. I just wanted to finish the drive in the end zone.”
“The moment was classic Matt Kehl,” said Miller of the celebration. “He displays such humility. It’s really inspirational.”
Although Kehl, an education/biology major from Manitowoc, Wis., has led the MIAA in rushing each of the past two years, he put no thought into breaking the MIAA record until a few weeks ago. His goal for his final season was the same one he has had since he became the go-to back in 2004: gain 1,000 yards rushing in 10 games.
As a sophomore Kehl became the first 1,000-yard rusher in WLC history (1,020) and improved his own school record as a junior (1,285). But he missed the better part of the first two games after suffering a shoulder injury early in the opener with D-I AA Valparaiso University, leaving Kehl with 752 yards rushing with one game to go.
Still, it was enough not only to top the MIAA chart, it pushed the 6-foot, 193-pound fullback over the 3,000-yard milestone. And Kehl was quick to recognize that his individual record – as the game of football itself – is a total team effort.
“It’s been awesome what Coach (Mike) Fossum has done with the offensive line and its schemes,” noted Kehl. “This record is really a joint record – a special accomplishment between a running back and his offense.”
“I believe Matt will go down as one of the special backs to have ever played in the league,” said Dennis Miller, head coach. “Every team’s coach marvels at what Matt is capable of doing.”
With one game to play, Kehl’s rushing total in MIAA games stands at 2,624 yards, while his overall career rushing total is 3,093 yards.
The Warriors (0-9 overall) conclude their 2006 schedule Saturday, November 11, as they travel to league-leading Hope College for a 12 p.m. CT kickoff.
“The first thing that comes to mind,” Kehl said of his last college football appearance, “is to do what we’ve done as a team all season long…fight for that win.”