The University of Toledo's football team could not have known for sure which Trinity Dawson would show up this season.
Would it be the running back who rushed for 999 yards during the 2003 season, or the one who was hobbled by a pair of injuries last season and saw his yardage production sliced by more than 50 per cent?
The answer has become obvious during a 5-1 start by the Rockets, who rank No. 2 among Mid-American Conference teams in rushing offense with a 221.2-yards-per-game average.
Dawson has 601 yards on the ground, with a career-high average of 5.7 yards per attempt, and is on an easy pace to crack the 1,000-yard mark that eluded him in '03.
Actually, he was in the books that season as the 10th running back in UT history to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. He had 1,001, but lost two yards on his next carry and wasn't again called upon during a season-ending loss at Bowling Green.
"I got the ball, [the defense] was ready for me, and I didn't get the ball again," Dawson said yesterday. "Then, last year, I had a rib injury early in the season and then an ankle injury that I probably tried to come back too early from, and it lingered the rest of the year.
"So my No. 1 goal this year was to stay healthy and help us win games and become the first Toledo team since the 35-0 teams [1969-71] to win back-to-back MAC championships. If that happens, all the personal goals will fall into place."
So far, so good. The Rockets are 3-0 in league play entering Saturday night's home date against Buffalo, which is allowing just over 200 yards per game on the ground.
"I think our run game is solid," said UT coach Tom Amstutz. "We use it for balance, because if you can successfully mix the run and pass, then both are better."
UT's attack could not be much more balanced. The Rockets have rushed for 1,327 yards and passed for 1,311.
"Do I have a Chester Taylor? No," Amstutz said. "But I have guys who run hard and block hard and we have a run scheme in place that's good enough to win."
Dawson's 146-yard effort last Saturday at Ball State, his second straight 100-yard outing, moved him past Casey McBeth and into third place on UT's career rushing list.
Unless something other-worldly occurs during this season's final weeks, Dawson is unlikely to catch either Taylor (4,849 yards) or Wasean Tait (4,338) as he builds on his 2,781-yard career total.
"That's OK," Dawson said. "Just to hear Taylor, Tait and Dawson, in that order, is a tremendous honor and it's a testament to my offensive line.
"It would also be a great accomplishment if I get 1,000 yards because there have been some great tailbacks here and I'd be only the 10th one in 86 years of UT football to do it."
Well, 85 years, but close enough. You don't have to be too precise about history when you're busy making some.
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