Michigan tailback Brandon Minor ignores bad ankle, has his best game
Whether it was shedding on-coming defender a high ankle sprain that has limited Brandon Minor productivity for much of the season, the Michigan senior tailback prefers to keep surging ahead.
With the Wolverines' bowl chances dangling on the verge of non-existent before Saturday's game against Purdue, Minor ignored the nagging pain that he's come to live with and tried to will Michigan to the win it needed to become bowl eligible.
A week after being limited to a cameo appearance in Michigan's loss at Illinois, Minor registered 19 carries, averaging 8.1 yards each time he touched the ball.
Often, he broke through tackles, dragging Purdue defenders with him, doing anything he could to snap Michigan's run of four straight Big Ten losses.
"That's my personality - I don't like going down easily," Minor said after running for 154 yards and three touchdowns in the Wolverines' 38-36 loss to Purdue. "I feel ashamed if I get tackled by just one person."
"In my eyes, I'm going to put all the pressure on my back, because I don't want to let the team down."
There are days, Minor said, when he insists he's fine but will be limited in practice. Other times, he knows he can't go. Last week against Illinois, he told Michigan coaches he could go if they needed him to. When he didn't play until late in the game, he figured he didn't do a good enough job selling his availability.
Asked after Saturday's game how close he was to being at full strength, Minor - who scored on runs of 29, 55 and 1 yard - admitted to being about 90 percent before quickly upgrading himself to 100 percent.
For Minor, it's his way of trying to convince those around him that he wants to carry as much weight as he needs to.
"Just with the way he plays and him playing hurt, it's almost sending a message to everyone else," Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier said. "If you're hurt, you just deal with it. You've got to leave it all on the line."
With stiff tests against Wisconsin and Ohio State looming, Minor doesn't want to allow his health issues to be an obstacle. On Sunday, he'll make getting treatment on his ankle a top priority, and he hopes to be as active in practice in preparation for the Wolverines' trip to Wisconsin on Saturday.
But as Michigan deals with a fifth consecutive conference loss, Minor feels as if he shoulders some of the responsibility. Despite an effort that coach Rich Rodriguez said gave the Wolverines a different physical presence and ability to run downhill, Minor wonders if he could have done more.
"I mean, me personally, I feel like every loss is my fault," he said. "Coach says 'don't point fingers,' but I felt like I could have done something - at least something to change the game."
"If anyone wants to point the finger, I'd rather have them point it at me than anybody else. I just want to take pressure off other players, because I can take pressure."
Minor said he'll speak up as a leader for the rest of the season, hoping the Wolverines can salvage their season.
"We're a team that needs to take advantage of every opportunity we get," Minor said. "It's tough to deal with because when you know you laid it out on the line and you still get beat, I'd rather have a team beat me at my best rather than us beating ourselves.
"We've been beating ourselves up."
Jeff Arnold covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2554.