Not very often does a true freshman come in to the Big Sky Conference and put together a season like the one North Dakota’s John Santiago is having.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound running back has rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the conference in both categories. Santiago, a native of St. Francis, Minn., has rushed for more than 100 yards in all seven Big Sky games this season, helping North Dakota maintain hope of a berth into the 24-team FCS playoffs.
Always a big-play threat, Santiago is the only freshman ranked in the top 21 nationally for rushing yards this season. Despite having 50 less carries than the national leaders, Santiago ranks fourth in the country with his 1,342 yards rushing.
“The thing that he’s done incredibly is how many touchdown runs he has over 40 yards,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “If you make a mistake, it’s gonna be a touchdown.”
The same can often be said for Mustangs quarterback Chris Brown, who is coming off a standout performance against UC Davis last week.
For the second time in his career, the fifth-year senior scored touchdowns rushing, passing and receiving in a 55-38 victory. In rushing for 160 yards against the Aggies, Brown surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season. He also set the school record for rushing touchdowns in a career with 36.
Six times this season Brown has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game, four of those coming against Big Sky opponents. Playing in his 34th and final collegiate game Saturday, Brown will have the chance to become one of only three players in the FCS to finish their careers with 3,000 yards passing and rushing.