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Posted on Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

Just like that, Fitzgerald Toussaint proves the Michigan football team can resemble its old self

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint fights through the face-mask grab of Purdue safety Albert Evans to score a second-quarter touchdown.

Joseph Tobianski |

Fitzgerald Toussaint isn't sure how to explain his trademark moment Saturday.

With the Michigan football team threatening to take control on the opening drive of the second half, the sophomore running back remembers seeing a crease behind sophomore left tackle Taylor Lewan.

From there, things got blurry.

"(There was) a lot of adrenaline," he said. "I just saw (the hole) and hit it.

"And scored a touchdown."

Sounds simple enough. In reality, it was more than that.


Fitzgerald Toussaint found plenty of running room on his 59-yard touchdown run.

Melanie Maxwell |

Toussaint's electrifying 59-yard cutback touchdown not only delivered the dagger in a 36-14 win over Purdue, but it also showed Michigan that Denard Robinson isn't the only player on the team capable of running the football.

Two weeks ago in a 28-14 loss to Michigan State, the Wolverine running backs carried the ball just 10 times for 40 yards.

With the backs providing little to no punch offensively, Robinson was forced to become Michigan's exclusive run threat. Partly because of that, he was also subject to immense pressure in the passing game, as he was sacked four times and eventually forced to leave the contest early due to injury.

On Saturday, things were a bit different.

The Michigan running backs combined to carry the ball 33 times for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Toussaint had the highest output (170 yards) by a Wolverine running back since 2009 and became the first player outside of Robinson to receive 20 carries in a game since 2009.

With Toussaint carrying the load, Robinson was able to play more within himself. He still carried the ball 15 times for 63 yards, but didn't appear to take any unnecessary punishment. And outside of one interception, his passing numbers were improved, as he posted a 64 percent completion rate for 170 yards.

Maybe Michigan's offense is a bit more than Denard left, Denard right and Denard up the middle.

Purdue coach Danny Hope said his game plan was mainly focused on stopping shadowing Robinson, not necessarily concerning themselves with Toussaint or anyone else.

"That, predominately, had been their M.O," Hope said.

Not on Saturday.

On Saturday, Michigan's running game looked like the old Michigan. Mike Hart's Michigan. Chris Perry and Tyrone Wheatley's Michigan.

"I wish it looked like that every week," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "We want to do our due-diligence of making sure that we're trying to pound the football in there."

The success on the ground was more than strong vision and quick bursts by Toussaint, though. The Wolverines' oft-maligned offensive line found a way to bounce back.

Hoke and Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges criticized the team's front five earlier in the week, saying their play in the loss to Michigan State wasn't good enough.

The front five listened and responded.

Lewan was banged up, starting guard Ricky Barnum re-injured his ankle, but none of it seemed to matter.

"We didn't get it done (against Michigan State)," fifth-year senior tackle Mark Huyge said. "We were under a little bit of pressure, but we knew if we played our game and executed the way we know we're capable of, then we'd be just fine."

Toussaint wouldn't get into too much detail about whether or not he thinks he can be Michigan's main running threat for the rest of the season, but he really didn't have to.

In the blink of an eye, in a moment too quick to remember, he proved he's Michigan's go-to back.

And just like that, Michigan's offense looked a lot more nostalgic.

"Michigan football, as I know it, is playing defense and being able to run the football and knock people off the line of scrimmage," Hoke said. "That's what, in my mind, Michigan football is."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Matt Patercsak

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 5:34 a.m.

hawkeye stadium is a tough place to play no matter who you are. I liked what i saw on saturday. Im becoming very comfortable with hopkins working at fullback. hes a downhill blocker and can catch passes and take carries. he could end up like a BJ Askew being that he's only a sophomore. more time in the weight room and body transformation could make him a beast! i was also glad to see McColgan back getting work too. he's about as solid as you can ask for and commands a presence in the backfield. its nice to see michigan employing these types of players and playing a tough brand of football. I wish the fiddle-farting would decrease slightly tho, I love the stacked receivers in both trips and dueces, and denard is an effective decoy, but at times i feel borges gets a little too lofty with the play calling. particularly in the first quarter. second half we pounded much harder, and more frequently. the defense has me excited. so much youth making quality plays and really coming together under a Michigan D attitude is only going to breed excellence. Good things are coming. effective fullbacks? workhorse tailbacks? TOUGH D? Kicking game!? -The nightmare appears to be over. a solid win against Iowa in their house would give me goosebumps. ps: also good to see Rawls get another carry haha, to say that he's my favorite running back is an understatement.

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

Matt your first sentence says it all. Strap on the helmets ...this one WILL be physical!


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

Purdue was a good rebound game to get some confidence back. But Purdue is the last easy game on the schedule. Iowa is not nearly as good as they were a year ago but it will be a more difficult test than Purdue because it's on the road. Illinois won't be a cakewalk either but it's a typical underachieving Ron Zook team. Michigan *should* be able to beat both Iowa and Illinois. Then it comes down to a couple knock down drag out fights to end the season. It would be great to win the division and put Sparty back in their rightful place...behind Michigan in the standings.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 10:19 a.m.

Simple math: UM beat Minnehaha by 58, who in turn edged Iowa by one. Allowing the Hawkeyes 3 points for home field advantage, UM should win next weekend by 56 points. If Blue doesn't win by at least 50, Hoke should cancel the return plane flight, and have the team come back to A2 running a relentless succession of 1/4-mile windsprints.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:20 a.m.

Iowa losing to the same Minnesota team which Michigan played. It seems impossible. Even if they play there best we should beat any team which lost to Minnesota. Go blue 8 and 1 in a week.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

It is no surprise to me that this Michigan team responded the way they did. I hope the injuries are not serious. I was at the game and saw Taylor Lewon get banged up. Overall, it was the O-Line's best game of the season, excluding the big MN win. The loss to MSU two weeks ago taught the Wolverines several lessons and most of the issues they had are correctable so this game today has been a good start. There was a lot of redemption for Michigan today and it was good to see. GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:05 p.m.

Hoke understands B1G and Michigan football. I just hope Iowa's loss to Minnesota today does not take away from UM's focus heading into that game, because I'm sure Iowa will come out gunning with everything they've got against Michigan to prove their loss was a fluke. Stay focused, Michigan. Go Blue!


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11 p.m.

The team effort was not wasted today. Every guy out there wearing the Michigan uniform executed their assignments. I think we will beat Iowa next week if we have the same type of focus. Go Blue! Let's go get another road victory!

Adolph Dooley

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

All I want to say is: "Hail to The Victors, Go Blue!"