The score was 47-7, Toledo had just notched 24 unanswered points in about nine minutes, it was still the third quarter, and the Rockets were about to put an epic licking on Western Michigan Saturday at the Glass Bowl. A Baylor type of licking, an Oregon-style beat-down; the kind of pounding that is good for the soul and keeps the old alums happy on Homecoming.
But UT coach Matt Campbell, being a compassionate sort, took his foot off the gas, meaning he stopped sending David Fluellen onto the field. The Rockets’ stud running back is the jet propulsion for a team that settled for a 47-20 victory.
He scored his fourth touchdown on a direct snap with 3:29 left in the third quarter, and that was his last of 23 carries that netted 220 yards. The poor Broncos, 0-6 and every bit deserving of it, couldn’t catch Fluellen with a net.
He averaged 9.6 yards per carry Saturday, and the Rockets as a whole averaged 9.2 — 360 yards on 39 rushing attempts — which exemplifies how the UT offensive line pretty much chewed this one up and spit it out.
Of course, that line was the first thing Fluellen wanted to talk about.
That’s understandable because Toledo’s big dudes are pretty good and every coach and running back knows they set the tempo.
But we prefer to talk about Fluellen because, frankly, he is taking his place among the very finest running backs in the history of UT, which is indeed rich in such history.
The names … Chester Taylor, Wasean Tait, Jalen Parmele, Casey McBeth, Adonis Thomas, Steve Morgan, and Kelvin Farmer of the 1980s, all the way back to the workhorse of the 1960s, Roland Moss.
Fluellen became the fifth to ever surpass 3,000 career yards.
He did it with his fourth 200-yard game, his fifth straight 100-yard game, of which he now has a total of 12, and he threw in a career-long 66-yard run for grins.
But it was a mere five-yard run on the first play of his final series that dazzled.
He twisted, he spun, he reversed field, he stopped, he bounced, he spun again, he danced, he dived, and he gained yardage where there was little or none to be had.
Here’s something else to ponder. His last three touchdown runs, including the 66-yarder in which he was virtually untouched, came out of what UT calls its heavy package. The quarterback is either off the field or in motion and off the ball. Fluellen takes a direct snap in an otherwise empty backfield. There isn’t much question who’s about to carry the ball.
The Broncos still couldn’t stop him. Not this time; not last time.
In two games against WMU, Fluellen has produced 433 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
When the Broncos’ buses pulled away from the stadium right as darkness settled, there may have been a tear or two in the senior’s eyes.
But, back to that five-yard run. Does the 6-foot, 215-pounder choreograph that magic?
“No, I don’t realize when I’m doing it in a game,” Fluellen said. “Honestly, my body just does whatever it wants when I’m in the zone. It’s something you can’t practice; it’s just good reaction. So when I see it on film, yeah, I’m kind of in awe too. Wait, I shouldn’t say that.”
It’s OK. Lots of people are.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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