MOUNT VERNON — When Devan Clark made the nearly 1,800-mile trek from his home in Upland, Calif., to Cornell College as a freshman in 2014, he forged an immediate relationship with Rams assistant Don Dicus.
On a day that Cornell dedicated to cancer awareness in honor of Dicus, who is not currently with the team as he battles the disease, Clark wanted to make him proud with his effort.
“He was one of the coaches I immediately clicked with, being the offensive coordinator,” said Clark, who had “DICUS” written on a patch under his left eye. “He was like one of my best friends.
“Since this was a game dedicated to him, I figured my play should be the same. I hope I do him justice and I hope he continues to get in better health.”
The performance was worthy of the cause. Clark rushed for 190 yards and tied a school recorded with four touchdown runs, helping Cornell beat Beloit (Wis.) College, 55-36, Saturday at Ash Park.
Clark produced most of his yardage and all of his touchdowns in the opening half. The Rams took advantage of a Buccaneer defensive front that allowed the 5-foot-7, 175-pound running to turn inside zone read runs into big plays, averaging 11.2 yards per carry.
“Initially, we saw the defense they were running,” Clark said. “It was a play we knew we could exploit and we ran that play over and over again. Finally, it started to bust and we got a rhythm. I’ve been waiting to get that all season.”
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Clark’s first score was a 4-yard burst that put the Rams up, 14-3, with 8:41 left in the first. Clark and the offense hit on all cylinders in the second quarter.
Clark scored on TD runs of 15 and 34 yards less than three minutes apart early in the second quarter. He added a 70-yard TD run, bolting through the center of the defense and giving Cornell a commanding 49-9 lead with 5:12 left in the first half.
“It’s one of those things that the blood is rushing again,” Clark said. ”I’m fidgety. I’m excited to start running all over again. When coach continues calling my number, I have to keep on performing and showing up. I was very excited.”
Clark resembled the form that resulted in first-team all-Midwest Conference his sophomore year. He benefited from strong play by his blockers.
“It was the Devan of old,” Brautigam said. “It was nice to see him get back into the groove again.
“I’ll tell you what, the offensive line did a tremendous job opening up some holes because I think a couple of his runs he didn’t get touched.”
Cornell was without starter running back Mickey Hines, who suffered a knee injury two weeks ago against Coe. Clark was ready to carry the load instead of helping loosen the defense for the passing game.
“I think I had to pick up my game,” Clark said. “I think that’s what I did today.”
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Cornell (2-1) rushed for 341 yards and quarterback James Douglas added 188 yards through the air. Douglas threw three TD pass, hitting Blake MacDowall on scoring strikes of 13 and 46 yards in the first half. Patrick Brown had a 15-yard TD reception.
“We work on that,” Brautigam said. “It’s dictated by how many people they put in the box and what they’re going to give us. We’re an up-tempo offense and when we’re up-tempo we play better.”
Dicus may not have been at Ash Park calling plays, but he still has an impact. Brautigam has used his example to motivate the Rams to push themselves and fight. Clark would prefer seeing Dicus back with his football family.
“Hopefully, we can see him back here on the field with us, because he’s one of my favorite coaches,” Clark said. “I love seeing him out here.”
Beloit (0-3) outgained Cornell, 562-529, and scored the final 20 points, which came in the fourth quarter after the Rams were comfortably in control.
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