By: Will Burchfield
Karan Higdon is tough, but he’s the furthest thing from callous.
The big-hearted running back nearly came to tears on the sideline on Saturday night when he learned he had rushed for 200 yards for the second time this season in Michigan’s win over Rutgers. His emotions were triggered as much by his love for his teammates as his own achievement.
“It’s big-time to meet that goal and meet that accomplishment. When I found out during the game that I hit 200 again I almost wanted to cry because I was so excited and so happy to share that moment with my boys, Chris (Evans) and Kareem (Walker), the O-line, Mason (Cole) and all those guys,” said Higdon.
“It’s a team effort and when we’re meeting goals like that it’s not just me doing it. It’s all of us doing it. I didn’t get there by myself, so I’m thriving to see that. I enjoy that.”
Cole, sitting to Higdon’s left at the interview podium, leaned forward and said, “It also helps that he’s from Florida.”
Cole, to no surprise, is from Florida as well.
Michigan hasn’t had a running back rush for 200 yards in consecutive games since Mike Hart accomplished the feat as a freshman in 2004. Higdon, who hit 200 on the nose versus Minnesota, had the pleasure of meeting Hart after racking up 200 yards versus Indiana last month.
Hart, Michigan’s all-time leading rusher and now the Hoosiers’ running backs coach, approached Higdon after the game to congratulate him and ask for his gloves. Only Higdon had no idea who he was.
“I didn’t notice that it was Mike Hart at first. But once my brother informed me, like, ‘You just gave your gloves to Mike Hart,’ I kicked myself in the butt. I was like, ‘You’re kidding me.’ I could have asked for his autograph or had a conversation or something. But to know that I’m on his path is a great feeling,” said Higdon.
According to mgoblue.com, Hart told Higdon, ‘Kid, you’re a heck of a runner. You’re going to go far, keep it going. You’re great. You’re awesome. Can I have your gloves?'”
In addition to the offensive line on Saturday night, Higdon got help from Chris Evans. The two running backs combined for 391 yards on 29 carries, a whopping average of 13.5 yards per carry.
Said Higdon, “Those guys got tremendous push up front. They got us onto the second level and we knew from there we had to do our thing and do what we do best, and that’s make people miss.”
Jim Harbaugh called it “a game for the ages” for the offensive linemen.
“It was a stalwart performance,” he said. “Looked up at one point and the statistics looked like we were Air Force the way we were running the ball. Thought we were Western Kentucky back in the early 90’s under Jack Harbaugh.
“But it was a great job. I’ve never seen that many plus-50-yard runs in one game, no team I’ve ever coached or been on. That was quite the performance, Karan and Chris had spectacular runs. The counter play was really good to us today, the blocking was really efficient, great precision there. I didn’t see any missed blocks in the running game.”
Higdon added two touchdowns on Saturday night to bring his season total to 10, the second most in the Big 10. His 804 rushing yards rank fourth. Michigan’s run game has come alive of late with 13 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards in the past four games.
“I think the backs are doing a really good job of making the blocks right,” said Harbaugh. “That was my impression watching the tape last week, and tonight. The way they’re seeing things and cutting and making the blocks right is impressive. They’ve been breaking out because the plays are blocked well and the backs are seeing it and making the appropriate cuts and finishing runs.”