Taliaferro rushes onto Walter Payton Award Watch List

South Carolina State, Eastern Kentucky and Liberty lead their respective FCS conferences in fewest rushing yards allowed this season. Pardon their defenses, however, for needing to dust themselves off after they faced running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.

The Coastal Carolina standout powered his way to over 150 rushing yards against each defense while enjoying a record-breaking start to his senior season, which on Thursday saw Taliaferro move onto the Walter Payton Award Watch List.

The 27th annual award, presented by The Sports Network, honors the outstanding player in the FCS. This year’s winner will join a list of Payton Award greats such as Steve McNair, John Friesz, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, Brian Finneran and Armanti Edwards.

Taliaferro has been the building block of sixth-ranked Coastal Carolina’s 7-0 start this season. Make that bulldozer.

At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Taliaferro has raced through defenders to rank first in the FCS in scoring (15.4 points per game), second in rushing touchdowns (17), fourth in rushing yards per game (140.9), fifth in total rushing yards (986), 10th in all-purpose yards per game (151.7) and 18th in points responsible for (108) – the only non-quarterback among the top 30 in the latter category.

Taliaferro has set Coastal Carolina’s single-season record for rushing touchdowns and overall touchdowns (18) as well as total points (108). He needs 122 yards to surpass the school’s single-season mark for rushing yards.

Included in Taliaferro’s huge campaign were 205 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Elon. It was one of his six games with multiple touchdowns and one of four with at least three scores.

“Just a man-child out there playing against boys,” Elon coach Jason Swepson said.

Other nominees on the Watch List are quarterbacks Vernon Adams of Eastern Washington, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Brock Jensen of North Dakota State, Jeff Mathews of Cornell, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State, Jerick McKinnon of Georgia Southern and Michael Nebrich of Fordham; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Kyle Harbridge of Saint Francis (Pa.), David Johnson of Northern Iowa, Fabian Truss of Samford, Terrance West of Towson and Zach Zenner of South Dakota State; and wide receivers Jordan Harris of Bryant, Lee Kurfis of Lehigh, Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois and Walter Powell of Murray State.

Other players considered for the Watch List: Lehigh quarterback Brandon Bialkowski; Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson; San Diego quarterback Mason Mills; and Villanova quarterback John Robertson.

The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the season. Ballots will be sent to a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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