NEWTON, Mass. -- The man who wears No. 2 is now No. 1 in the history books in yet another category. Montel Harris became the Eagles’ all-time rushing leader with a 26-yard sprint in the fourth quarter Saturday.
Harris came into the matchup with Wake Forest needing 98 yards to tie Derrick Knight’s record of 3,725 career yards. He finished with 108 yards on 22 carries on the day he set the record.
Unfortunately for the senior, who was one of many in the program hoping for big things this season, it came in yet another loss for the Eagles.
“In the moment, breaking the record falls second on my list,” Harris said after the game. “We work hard every week to get a win and we came up short this time. I’m sure I’ll look back at the end of the season and view this as a huge accomplishment. Right now, I’m trying to help our team get the season going in the right direction with some wins.”
Perhaps fittingly, Harris injured his left knee on the run that set the record, and wasn’t on the field for the touchdown that came two plays later. He was later cleared to return to the game.
“I love Montel, and he’s deserving of every individual accolade that he gets,” head coach Frank Spaziani said, his voice practically a whisper after the disappointing loss dropped the Eagles to 1-4. “We’re certainly very happy for him. He’s worked very hard to get it and hopefully he’ll get some more.”
Harris had 66 yards in the first half, and added 42 in the second as the Eagles mounted a comeback that fell just short.
After Harris’ record-setting run, the Eagles were on the Wake Forest 4-yard line with just more than 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Demon Deacons up 24-9. Two plays later, Chase Rettig found Alex Amidon for a 2-yard score and the Eagles were within eight. A Nate Freese field goal with six minutes left brought them within a touchdown, but the defense gave up two big plays and Wake Forest kicked a field goal to go back up by eight and end the threat.
Harris already owned the Eagles’ records for career rushing attempts (756 entering the season), career 100-yard games (22), yards in a game (264 in 2009 against NC State) and rushing touchdowns in a game (five, also in 2009 against NC State).
“That’s a great accomplishment for Montel,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said of the career rushing record. “We all appreciate what he’s done for this team and the program.”
“I think everyone’s been waiting for him to come back and have a game like this,” Rettig said.
Nate Freese had a busy day. The sophomore kicker hit on field goals of 36, 45, 52 and 32 yards. The 52-yarder set a new career long, surpassing his previous high of 49 yards.
It was the third four-field-goal game of Freese’s career, as he also made four kicks against Kent State and Florida State last season.
Freese actually attempted five field goals on the day. He missed his first attempt of the game, a 47-yarder, but an offside penalty on Wake Forest negated the kick and allowed the Eagles to keep the drive going. Harris converted the short fourth-and-1 and three plays later Freese was called on again and hit the first of his four kicks.
Kuechly’s streak of consecutive games with 10 or more tackles is at 27 and counting after the junior linebacker brought down ball carriers 14 times Saturday.
It is the longest active such streak in the country.
Shift on O-line
Offensive co-captain Nate Richman missed his second straight game with a back injury. Against UMass in Week 4, Richman was replaced at left guard by Mark Spinney. Against Wake Forest, Spinney started at center, the position he played to begin the year, and Bobby Vardaro started at left guard.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.