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Quinton Broussard has watched and waited. He has paced and fidgeted. He has kept his helmet on and his chin strap buckled.
The University of Toledo junior running back from Carrollton, Texas, followed his coaches' edict and kept himself prepared, aware that he could be called on the next play, or not at all. When starter Trinity Dawson was injured early in the game at Kansas last Saturday, Broussard was standing on the sideline, one step from the turf.
"I've been waiting on my moment to get in there and show everybody what I can do," Broussard said, "but you never know when it will come. I've always been ready to play and ready to help this team, so when they yelled my name, I was in that frame of mind."
Broussard had a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter at Kansas, his first scoring run since his freshman year in 2002. After two games he leads the Rockets (0-2), who have struggled offensively and found the yards on the ground especially tough to come by, with 21 carries and 79 yards rushing. Broussard has been the principal backup to Dawson since Dawson took over the starting role late in the 2002 season. Broussard played in all
14 games as a freshman that year, rushing for 228 yards and four touchdowns. His role was reduced last year - playing in 10 games and carrying the ball just 17 times for 88 yards. And this as his brother Michael, a transfer from Wisconsin, was starting in the defensive backfield.
"I have been itching to get in there and get some more carries, but having Trinity hurt, I didn't want it to happen like that," Broussard said. "You never want to see a teammate go down, no matter how it might change things for you, personally, in terms of playing time.
"But we all know that in football there's no guarantee everybody's going to stay healthy throughout the year. When somebody goes down, that's what you have backups for. If somebody goes down, you have to fill the shoes, and the beat never stops. You have to get right in there and see to it the level of play never slips."
UT coach Tom Amstutz said Broussard has followed his directives, the same ones he preaches to every player on the roster who is not in a starting role.
"We talk to our players all the time about first you prepare, and then your chance will come," Amstutz said. "And when it does come you have to be ready. Quinton is a perfect example of that."
Broussard led the football-mad state of Texas in rushing as a senior at The Colony with 2,124 yards at the 5A (big school) level, including three games with more than 300 yards each. Still, Amstutz said Broussard has been the model citizen while Dawson has been in the lead role.
"There is a young man who has worked hard, and he has been unselfish," Amstutz said. "He has not gotten down and mopey about not being a starter, when he knows that he could have been a starter in some programs. Now his opportunity is there to step up and play some great football."
Broussard said he has approached every off-season drill, every practice session and every game as if he were the starting tailback for the Rockets.
"You just practice as hard as you can. You practice like you are going to play. You get the fundamentals down, you look at the film, you study and get all of the plays down, just like the first string does. You anticipate that you are going to play. That way you can just step in when your number is called; there is no nervousness or adjustment period."
Broussard said he is certain that Toledo's offense, which was expected to lead the Rockets into contention for the MAC West title this season, will find its rhythm very soon, and he hopes to be a part of the revival.
"Our offense is going to start clicking. We just have to get everyone on the same page and have everyone do their assignments," he said. "Then we can start lighting up the scoreboard like we have been in the past couple of years."
Dawson has practiced this week and his status for Saturday night's Mid-American Conference opener at Eastern Michigan is not certain.
But whether it is in a starting role or in spot duty, Broussard said he wants to have a hand in getting the Rockets back on track after humbling losses at Minnesota and Kansas.
"We've had a rough start, but our goals are all still there," Broussard said. "The MAC West, the MAC Championship game, a bowl game - those have been our goals all along, and they are all still in front of us. So this Eastern Michigan game is very important. It is a MAC championship game right here, and we have to treat it like it is."
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