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September 22, 2013

Toussaint finds a groove on the ground

The long drought is over. A Michigan running back has finished a game with more than 100 yards.

After running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 20 times for 120 yards in a 40-34 win over Ohio State in 2011, the Wolverines went 17 straight games without a 100-yard rusher at the running back position until Saturday night's 24-21 win at Connecticut.

Toussaint, now a fifth-year senior, stopped the streak himself, rushing 24 times for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

He scored on a 35-yard option play, taking the pitch from redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner and cutting back across the field to find an open lane to the end zone. He also scored on a 12-yard off-tackle play, sprung on a hook block from freshman tight end Jake Butt, to knot the game at 21 in the fourth quarter.

Toussaint averaged 5.0 yards per carry, his highest per-carry average in a game with more than 20 carries since the 2011 Ohio State game, when he averaged 6.0 yards per carry. He averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry in five games last season, but never on more 18 carries in a game.

"Credit to the offensive line, for going out there and playing ball, and to the guys on the ends, the tight ends," Toussaint said. "We came out there and we had a passion. We went over there and we took over."

The Wolverines' 17-game drought without a running back hitting the 100-yard mark is the longest in nearly 50 years. From the Ohio State game at the end of the 1961 season to a 19-12 win over Minnesota on Oct. 24, 1964, Michigan went 23 straight games without a 100-yard rusher at running back.

Like the current streak, during which former quarterback Denard Robinson and Gardner have been a huge factor in the running game, Michigan relied heavily on quarterback Bob Timberlake for production on the ground during the mid-1960s streak without 100-yard rushing running backs.

From 1962-64, Timberlake rushed 156 times for 967 yards and 10 touchdowns, including two single-game performances over 100 yards.

During the Wolverines' 17-game streak from the Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2011 to Saturday, the Wolverines' enjoyed seven 100-plus-yard games from their quarterbacks: six from Robinson in 2012 and a career-high 103 rushing yards from Gardner against Akron this season.

"The quarterback rushing does count - just want you to know that," offensive coordinator Al Borges said last Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "That is part of your rushing."

In 30 games since Michigan coach Brady Hoke took office, the Wolverines have had 19 100-yard performers. Of those, 12 have come on the legs of quarterbacks (11 from Robinson, one from Gardner), and seven have been by running backs (six from Toussaint and one from former running back Vincent Smith).

But the fact of the matter is the Wolverines need to get more production from their running backs - and getting Toussaint going against the Huskies may mean big things for the future, especially with Big Ten season right around the corner.

In the Wolverines' first three games of the season, Toussaint never finished with more than 71 yards in a game.

He averaged fewer than four yards per rush against Notre Dame (3.2 yards per rush) and Akron (3.7).

With three new, young starters on the offensive line - redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis, redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller and redshirt sophomore left guard Graham Glasgow - a game like this could be a big confidence-booster.

"It's about much Toussaint but also about the offensive line getting some movement," Hoke said. "I thought Jake Butt did an ice job when he came in. He's a little bigger of a tight end

100-Yard Rushing Performances During Hoke's Tenure
Player
Position
Opp., Year
Att.
Yards
TDs
Denard Robinson
QB
Purdue, 2012
24
235
0
Denard Robinson
QB
Air Force, 2012
20
218
2
Denard Robinson
QB
San Diego St., 2011
21
200
3
Denard Robinson
QB
Eastern Mich., 2011
26
198
1
Fitzgerald Toussaint
RB
Illinois, 2011
27
192
1
Denard Robinson
QB
Ohio State, 2011
26
170
2
Fitzgerald Toussaint
RB
Illinois, 2011
20
170
2
Denard Robinson
QB
Illinois, 2012
11
159
2
Fitzgerald Toussaint
RB
Nebraska, 2011
29
138
2
Denard Robinson
QB
Ohio State, 2012
10
122
1
Fitzgerald Toussaint
RB
Connecticut, 2013
24
120
2
Fitzgerald Toussaint
RB
Ohio State, 2011
20
120
0
Vincent Smith
RB
Eastern Mich., 2011
9
118
0
Denard Robinson
QB
Northwestern, 2011
25
117
2
Denard Robinson
QB
Notre Dame, 2011
16
108
1
Fitzgerald Toussaint
RB
Minnesota, 2011
11
108
1
Denard Robinson
QB
Massachusetts, 2012
10
106
1
Devin Gardner
QB
Akron, 2013
10
103
1
Denard Robinson
QB
South Carolina, 2012
23
100
0



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