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In the 700th game played at Harvard Stadium, Crimson running back Charlie Booker had a performance for the ages. Against Lafayette (2-5, 2-0 Patriot), the junior racked up a career-high 159 rushing yards on 23 carries and added a touchdown. He was an integral piece of Harvard’s (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) relentless running game and 38-10 domination of the Leopards.
“Number one, physically he’s strong,” Lafayette coach John Garrett said. “He’s quick. He makes upfield cuts if you watch him. Even when approaching tacklers, he just takes his shoulder and is always moving up the field. He never tries to run around."
Booker catalyzed the Crimson’s first drive, scampering for a 31-yard gain and then adding 14 more to put Harvard deep into Lafayette territory. That push led to a four-yard touchdown rush by junior wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley.
Booker’s score came with 38 seconds left in the first half. The touchdown punctuated a 13-play drive that lasted more than seven minutes. Facing first-and-goal from the one, the Crimson lost two yards on three plays. But a pass interference call gave Harvard a new set of downs, and Booker hit pay dirt with a one-yard plunge. Harvard 21, Lafayette 7.
With his remarkable stat line, Booker became the first Harvard player to rush for over 150 yards since Paul Stanton Jr. ran for 235 yards against Penn in 2014. The Crimson’s 296 rushing yards were the most in a game for the team since it rushed for 304 against Columbia, also in 2014.
In part, Booker’s big day came thanks to a strong showing by the Harvard offensive line. The five starters pushed around the Leopards defense and paved the way for many of Booker’s runs. The line has established itself as an important complement to Booker and fellow running back and freshman Aaron Shampklin.
“So far, it’s been a ton of growth,” said junior offensive lineman Ben Shoults. “Liam [Shanahan has] done a great job, coming in as a young guy with his first real experience playing college football. Dan Leden being a senior has really taken all of us under his wing and shown great leadership.”
On the year, Booker has 496 yards rushing on 70 carries, good for 99.2 yards per game. Perhaps the most impressive statistic is his average of 7.1 yards per carry. That number ranks him second-best among all Ancient Eight rushers with at least 50 carries.
The only player in front of Booker is Penn running back Karekin Brooks, who has totaled 586 yards. However, 268 of those yards came in a record-demolishing win against Lehigh. The Marietta, Ga., native has yet to top 90 yards since.
Booker has a nose for the end zone, too. He has found the end zone five times in the same amount of games played. No other Crimson player has more than two rushing touchdowns.
Harvard coach Tim Murphy clearly remembers watching Booker represent Cypress Ranch in the 2014 Texas 6A high school football championship. The running back’s on-field grit propelled him to captain his team as a senior and earn first team All-district honors—and team MVP—twice. Needless to say, Murphy was extremely excited when Booker joined the program and was impressed by his humbleness and strong character.
“Those guys who can gain yards after contact are so hard to find,” Murphy said. “We have a lot of good backs, there are a lot of good backs in our league, but the ones that just punish with their running style are hard to find. He’s a bit like Clifton Dawson in that way—probably not as fast but probably even better after contact. He’s a strong physical kid. He’s explosive. But it definitely takes a certain mentality that enjoys the physical aspect of the game."
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