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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 04 2012

FCS' leading rusher is Terriers' top dog

Fargo - Wofford College running back Eric Breitenstein is 5-foot-10, 230 pounds and reminds some Bison coaches of former North Dakota State running back Tyler Roehl. And everybody knows what Roehl did to opponents.

After a combined 28 yards his first two seasons, Roehl left NDSU as the 10th all-time leading rusher at a school that had a lot of productive backs. He did it with power and speed.

And that’s what Breitenstein has done to lead Division I Football Championship Subdivision in rushing heading into Saturday’s quarterfinal playoff game against NDSU. He’s averaging 158.3 yards a game and is finishing off a spectacular career at a school that used to be the opposition in his family.

His grandfather was a former head coach at Appalachian State, and his brother Seth was on the three straight Appalachian national championship teams from 2005-07.

“It was one of those things where Wofford offered me early and stayed on it,” Eric Breitenstein said.

He had some preferred walk-on opportunities at Football Bowl Subdivision programs, but his decision came down to Navy and Wofford.

“It’s been the perfect fit,” he said.

To say the least. He’s the school’s leading career rusher with 5,348 yards and is third in Southern Conference history with most games over 100 yards with 30.

“He’s just a really good hard runner, north and south guy,” said Appalachian State head coach Jeff Monken, whose team beat Wofford 17-9 earlier in this season. “He runs low, is powerful and is a really good back.”

Breitenstein had 247 yards in last week’s second-round win over New Hampshire. He also tweaked his hamstring, he said, but with rehabilitation is expected to be ready for NDSU.

“You can feel it, but it’s one of those things where I’ll be able to go,” he said.

He’s one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award that goes to the FCS’ most outstanding player along with Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke and Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet.

That award will be announced Dec. 17. Of course, Breitenstein would like to keep playing into January when the national championship game will be played in Frisco, Texas. Wofford is making its fifth postseason appearance in the last six years.

“Getting into the playoffs is huge, but that being said, that’s not enough anymore,” Breitenstein said. “We’ve proven we can do it consistently. Now we have to take the next step.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia