Kiylan Bugg has been overlooked for most of his football career. Since he stands just 5-foot-2, that isn’t exactly surprising.
The little man made a big statement, however, last weekend in Oberlin’s 43-35 Patriot Athletic Conference win over Firelands.
In fact, the running back’s performance was not just big … it was historic. Bugg carried the ball 26 times for 406 yards (his total increased after watching the game tape) and scored four touchdowns. Only Lorain Catholic’s Zach Warner, who had 438 yards in a game during the 1998 season, has had a bigger rushing night in Lorain County history.
“There were some great play calls and my line did a great job blocking,” Bugg said. “The other running backs did a great job blocking and so did the quarterback. Everyone did. With my running style, everyone knows how to block for me, to get me to be one-on-one somewhere or to the sidelines.”
Bugg has been ripping off big runs with great regularity this season. He has 89 carries for 853 yards for a 9.6 average. He has eight rushing touchdowns and one 75-yard kickoff return for a score.
“It’s been pretty interesting this whole season,” Oberlin coach Fred Howery said. “Everyone looks at him and you can tell what they’re thinking. … That he’s 5-2, maybe, and 130 pounds. That he’s not going to be able to do much. The thing is, he hits that edge and he’s probably one of the fastest kids in this county. That’s an excellent attribute.”
Bugg had to sit out last season because of academic issues, but came back for his senior season stronger … both on the field and in the classroom.
“He’s had some struggles in the past,” Howery said. “Last year he was ineligible for us, but this year he has his head on straight. He has a 3.2 (gpa) so far this year and has dedicated himself to the program. It’s unfortunate he’s a senior, but we’re going to get as much mileage out of him as we can.”
Although he couldn’t practice or play in games, Bugg used his junior year as a learning experience. He paid attention to both his close friends, quarterback Jason Moore and running back Khalif Townsell.
Howery called Bugg a “great leader” on the field and in the weight room — a trait Bugg learned from Moore, the team’s captain last season. As for what it took to be a successful running back, that was Townsell’s department.
“Khalif taught me a lot because of the way he played,” Bugg said. “He blocked and always stayed aggressive. He also kept the team motivated the right way and never put anyone down. After the games he would talk to me and give me advice, tell me how to avoid problems and things like that. We are really close, like brothers, and he helped me a lot.”
Between his sophomore and senior seasons, Bugg got a lot stronger. Although he weighs just 130, he lifts much more than that in the weight room. At Oberlin’s annual preseason combine he maxed out at 200 on the bench press and was able to squat 275.
“Coach told me I had the speed, but needed some muscle,” Bugg said. “Last year and this year they really got me lifting, and now I can break tackles as well as make people miss. Plus, I don’t get hurt and can play four full quarters.”
His increased strength, plus his all-out attitude, has shown on the field, where he would much rather take on a would-be tackler than run out of bounds. Better yet, he tries to make the defender miss altogether.
“If I run out of bounds everyone would think I was afraid to hit or get tackled,” he said. “I take them head-on to show them they can’t intimidate me … that I’m not worried about their hitting.
“As a freshman I was the same height, but a lot skinnier. That’s when I would run out of bounds because there were some big guys compared to me out here.”
Howery thinks Bugg’s diminutive size makes him difficult for defenses to face.
“You don’t see him until he’s up on top of you, and if you haven’t prepared for it he’s in your face … then he’s by you,” Howery said. “That’s what happened with Firelands and a couple of teams that don’t have that full-team speed. That’s what they found out.”
One thing Bugg does not lack is confidence. He laughed when asked if anyone could stop him in a one-on-one situation. He also talked about the motivation he gets when he feels a team might not be taking him seriously or giving him the respect he feels he has earned on the football field.
“That’s always how it’s been, since I played pee-wee,” he said. “They always underestimated me. That’s what really drives me, what really gets me going. Then I get in that mode, in my zone, and I don’t think there’s anything that can really stop me.”
And once he gets things going, Howery said, he knows how to put on a show.
“You never know what he’s going to do,” Howery said. “Whenever I hear a play called for him I know it could be one of those plays where he does something special. He can look like he’s going to lose a yard or 2 and turn it into something huge.
“Against Buckeye, we ran a sweep to the left, he reversed his field and took it 87 yards. And they had angles on him. You just saw him turn it on and blow right past them.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.