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  • August 23, 2019
    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- As a high school player in Peoria, big games and big runs were normal for Kendrick Foster. Thirteen times he topped 200 yards at Richwoods High School and 14 times he scored on runs of at least 50 yards.But after last Novembers season-ending loss to Northwestern, Foster was barely playing at Illinois and wanted out .Ten months later, Foster is still at Illinois, and hes the owner of a day like no other Illini running back has ever had.The redshirt junior touched the ball just four times in Saturdays 52-3 win over Murray State. But two of those runs were 56-yard touchdowns and he finished with 118 yards. Thats an average of 29.5 a carry, a school record.I felt like I was in high school again, I felt natural, having fun with my teammates, said Foster, who briefly took a knee and offered thanks after the second touchdown, before his offensive teammates surrounded him to celebrate.That moment was a long way from Nov. 30, the Monday after Illinois loss to Northwestern. Foster was a week removed from his best game at Illinois, an 11-carry, 57-yard performance in a loss to Minnesota. The primary back, KeShawn Vaughn, was out with an injury. But when Vaughn returned against Northwestern, Foster didnt touch the ball.So Foster announced on his Twitter account he planned to transfer. He says his family, and particularly his father, persuaded him to stay.James Foster was a high school running back in Peoria in the 1990s, and after playing in junior college transferred to Illinois but never saw the field because of an injury.I had a lot of choices in front of me on the table and I chose to stay, Kendrick Foster said. My dad had a big say in it.First-year Illinois coach Lovie Smith says he knew little about that history. But he said Foster has been a steady presence since Smith was hired in March.My first day here, he was one of the bright-eyed guys looking at me. Hes done everything weve asked him to do, Smith said.That included losing weight, about 10 pounds, according to Foster. At just 5-9 and 195 pounds, Foster still is not the top back at Illinois. Most of those teammates who swarmed him to celebrate late in the second quarter Saturday were at least a full head taller.The top job belongs to Vaughn, the 5-10, 210-pound sophomore whom both Smith and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee have made clear will get most of the carries in an Illinois offense that stresses the run.But the lighter Foster is the first back off the bench. Against Murray State, he was a faster, more elusive change of pace from Vaughn.On Fosters first touchdown, he burst through a huge hole and was too fast to be caught by the Racers. The second score required a little more finesse, with Foster heading right, then weaving left and right again before breaking up field. But again, once he hit his stride, there was no catching him.Smith called the pair of touchdowns dream runs, particularly for someone in Fosters position.All running backs dream of scoring, longer runs, you know, breaking it and not getting caught from behind, he said. And youre a backup running back, at that. And youre going to have limited reps. You need to make the most of it.After wanting to leave Illinois, Foster now says he is just happy he stayed and has earned a chance to play with North Carolina coming to Champaign this Saturday.I was just so thankful. Im just finally getting the opportunity to display my talent and show what Peoria, Illinois, produces, he said.---Follow David Mercer on Twitter: (at)davidmercerAP---Online: Associated Press college football coverage: Ryan Kesler Ducks Jersey . -- The proud fathers huddled near the Dallas Stars dressing room, smiling, laughing and telling stories while wearing replica green sweaters of their sons team. Cam Fowler Jersey . They reached the 100-point plateau for the fourth time in five games, bested the visiting Trail Blazers by 34 in the paint and scored 19 of the final 25 points in regulation. . -- James Young couldnt wait to apply those tweaks to his jump shot, and the first one he made against UT Arlington told him it could be a good night. Ryan Miller Jersey .S. -- Nikolaj Ehlers registered a hat trick for the third straight game and Jonathan Drouin had a goal and five assists as the Halifax Mooseheads hammered the host Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 10-1 on Tuesday in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. Jean-Sebastien Giguere Ducks Jersey . -- Matt Ryan needed one of the best games of his career to lead the Falcons and their depleted offence out of their three-game losing streak last week. The last time Sean Dempster was in an AFL team beaten by Melbourne he was playing in a Sydney side that would go on to win the flag.It was round five, 2005, and the Demons comfortably beat the Swans by 34 points at the SCG.Brock McLean got the three Brownlow Medal votes and a 21-year-old Dempster, in just his third AFL game, played on high-flying forward Russell Robertson.Russell took a massive hanger on my head in the goal square, Dempster told AAP.He was at the peak of his powers and he was taking hangers on everyone. During that week everyone had been getting into me, telling me to watch out he doesnt step on my head, and it still happened.Eleven years, a premiership flag and 212 games later, the versatile defender is part of a St Kilda side looking to continue a 13-game winning streak against Melbourne.The Saints are 12th and the Demons 10th with identical 7-8 records heading into Sundays clash at Etihad Stadium, with Paul Roos side keen to rid themselves of another hoodoo.I think once you get a bit of a roll-on (against a team) I guess a bit of pride starts to kick in that you want to keep it going, Dempster said of the impressive run that started in round oone of the 2007 season.ddddddddddddBut theyve been a big improver this year, which comes as no surprise to me having played under Roosy.They can bring a really high-pressure game and, probably like us, if they dont bring that (intensity) thats when they can come undone a bit ... as we can with us also having quite a few younger players.But we go in expecting their best pressure, which well need to match then hopefully put them on the back foot.Saints youngsters Jack Billings and Jack Sinclair return for the clash, while the Demons included Angus Brayshaw for his first game since round five after he overcame lingering concussion symptoms.St Kilda prevailed by 39 points in an entertaining affair the last time the teams met back in round six. Nick Riewoldt starred for the Saints, while Jesse Hogan kicked seven goals for Melbourne.Generally the bigger blokes arent that mobile - hes a special talent, Dempster said of Hogan.I daresay all three tall defenders down there might have to play on him at some stage ... hes a pretty dynamic player. ' ' '