Did Michigan miss Fitz Toussaint on Saturday? Brady Hoke says that's hypothetical
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michigan football coach Brady Hoke made a statement earlier this week when he announced he'd be sitting one of his top offensive weapons against arguably the best defense in America.
Hoke suspended running back Fitz Toussaint for the Alabama game on Friday, a punishment stemming from the junior's offseason drunken driving arrest.
Without their top running back, the eighth-ranked Wolverines mustered just 69 yards on 29 carries in a 41-14 loss to the second-ranked Crimson Tide.
Did they miss Toussaint? Hoke isn't sure.
"I can't guess if we missed Fitz or not," Hoke said after the game. "That's hypothetical, to be honest with you.
"We've (still) got to block them."
One might make the argument that even if Toussaint had played Saturday, the Wolverines would have still been in trouble -- as Alabama allowed a national-best 938 rushing yards in 13 games last season, and appears capable of duplicating that feat again this season.
But regardless, with Toussaint back in Ann Arbor, Michigan's replacement runners found virtually no breathing room.
Hoke opted to start 5-foot-6, 175-pound senior Vincent Smith against the Tide's big, physical defensive front -- a move that didn't pay off. Smith gained just eight yards on his first eight carries, and finished with just 37 on 13 totes -- 22 of them coming on one solid run in the second half.
Smith's backup, 5-foot-10, 218-pound Thomas Rawls, was called a "battering ram" by the Michigan coaching staff all offseason, and applauded for his "angry" running style.
There was nothing angry about Rawls' performance Saturday. And after Rawls was de-cleated by Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri on a pitch in the third quarter, his night was officially over.
His final stat line? Six carries, nine yards.
"The whole summer and camp we talked about setting an identity for this defense," Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "Everybody was talking about 2010 and 2011. Today we came out with great intensity and great tenacity. We showed the world what the 2012 (Alabama) defense is going to do."
Mosley and the Tide definitely showed everyone what they're made of. As for Michigan offensively?
Plenty of questions remain. Hoke's initial announcement on Toussaint and sophomore defensive end Frank Clark just dealt with a suspension for the Alabama game. Although there's been no official confirmation if either will return next week for the Wolverines' home-opener against Air Force.
One thing's certain, though. Whether or not Toussaint comes back, Michigan has to figure out a way to move the ball on the ground.
And, according to Hoke, that all starts up front.
With, or without, Toussaint.
"I thought we'd block them a little better," Hoke said.