Rockets notebook

Fluellen has career day against Broncos

9/30/2012
BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
David Fluellen.
David Fluellen.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- When running back David Fluellen did not start for the first time this season, speculation existed he might have been feeling loopy from a head injury he suffered last week.

It turned out, Fluellen was feeling OK. His play was pretty good too.

The University of Toledo junior needed only eight carries to set a career-high in rushing yards Saturday at Waldo Stadium, knifing a Western Michigan defense that ranked second in the Mid-American Conference in rush defense.

Fluellen scored twice in the first half, on a six-yard run in the opening drive, and on a twisting and turning 53-yard scamper when he bounced a sweep to the center of the field. A viscous block by Alonzo Russell shepherded Fluellen the rest of the way for Fluellen's longest career run.

Fluellen, who notched his first 100-yard day three weeks ago at Wyoming, finished with 213 yards on 21 carries. He surpassed 100 yards on a 16-yard burst in the second quarter, setting a career-high in the process.

Starting in place of Fluellen was Cassius McDowell, who ripped off a run of 19 yards on the first play from scrimmage.

T.J. Fatinikun
T.J. Fatinikun

FATINIKUN HURT: All-MAC defensive end T.J. Fatinikun injured his ankle early and did not return, a harrowing site of a player that coach Matt Campbell calls the "heartbeat" of the defense. Fatinikun, a senior from Perrysburg, folded to the ground in between plays and was assisted to the lockerroom. He returned for the start of the second half in street clothes, aided by crutches and a boot on his left foot.

Losing him would be a heady blow to a line that has been without starting tackle Danny Farr for three weeks.

Fatinikun, who missed the final seven games in 2011 with an elbow injury, has lacked his usual disruptiveness early this year, having recorded 10 tackles and one sack. Still, he is the unit's best pass rusher.

Farr, who went down in the Wyoming game with a knee injury, is expected back within the next couple of weeks.

WARDROBE CHANGE: The anticipated unveiling of the yellow helmet came Saturday, with the Rockets topping off their ensemble of white jerseys and white pants with a helmet that looks strikingly similar to the blue one they've worn all year. One side was adorned by the Rockets logo, the other by one's jersey number. The only difference, it appears, is the color. Still to be revealed is an alternate gray uniform that the team's seniors voted on.

TWO QBS: Campbell indicated last week he wanted to get backup quarterback Austin Dantin more involved in the offense. Dantin entered in the second quarter, with starter Terrance Owens sliding out to receiver. Owens took the ball on a reverse and fired a pass down the sideline to Dantin, who had escaped freely from the backfield. The throw was way off, but the possibility of seeing this setup will give defensive coordinators something to worry about.

NEXT UP: One week after upsetting Iowa, Central Michigan fell 55-24 at Northern Illinois. The Chippewas (2-2), who head to the Glass Bowl on Saturday as UT's homecoming guest, were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter of both team's conference opener.

SHORT YARDS: Running back Cassius McDowell and linebacker Vladimir Emilien started for the first time. ... Cornerback Byron Best missed his second game in a row. Best, who injured his knee against Bowling Green, was expected to play.