COLUMBIA, Mo. — Through the muck of a difficult start on offense shines a familiar light.
David Fluellen in 2013 looks an awful lot like David Fluellen in 2012.
The University of Toledo’s senior running back was arguably the best player Saturday on Faurot Field, reaching 100 yards as both a runner and a receiver, and giving hope to a unit that has fallen short of expectations.
Fluellen, who was sparsely used a week ago at Florida, accounted for 211 of his team’s 387 yards in a 38-23 loss at Missouri. He established career highs in receptions (10) and receiving yards (100), benefitting from a game plan heavy on short passes to the perimeter. Fluellen also ran 17 times for 111 yards with a long of 26 yards.
“Jeez, he’s special, isn’t he?” Rockets coach Matt Campbell said. “[No.] 22’s a darn good football player. He’s been the most consistent player of all of our football players the last two weeks. There’s no question he’s a darn good back, and he has a chance to have a really special year.”
A year ago, Fluellen ran for 1,498 yards despite missing all or large chunks of four games.
His impact catching the ball was of even greater importance. He leaped to pull down a high pass to convert UT’s first third down and by halftime had eclipsed his previous career high in catches (six) by one.
DETMER PUNTING: What did Vince Penza get for playing one of the best games of his career last week? Nothing good. The senior punter was benched in favor of rugby-punting specialist Jeremiah Detmer, the team’s place kicker. Campbell wanted to keep the ball away from Marcus Murphy, an All-America returner, and considered Detmer his best option.
Murphy, who had four special teams touchdowns in 2012, fielded two punts for 22 yards.
“JD’s an excellent, excellent, excellent rugby punter,” Campbell said. “Other than the one that hit the back of somebody, he was fantastic, and it really limited [Murphy].”
Detmer averaged 30 yards on three punts. His final attempt hit a Toledo player in the back and set up a Missouri fourth-quarter touchdown drive. Penza, who averaged 45.9 yards last week on seven punts, punted once late in the game. His kick traveled 48 yards.
Detmer also excelled in his normal duties. He made three first-half field goals to extend his streak of makes to 22 and climb to within one of the UT record held by Alex Steigerwald (2007-08).
SHORT YARDS: Reserve cornerback Juwan Haynes missed the game after undergoing surgery to remove a growth on his knee. Campbell expects Haynes to return to practice this week. ... Cornerback Chris Dukes, who started the opener, was dressed but did not play. Cameron Cole got his first career start and made four tackles. ... Gary Pinkel won his 92nd game at Missouri to pull within one win of Dan Devine for second all-time at the program. Don Faurot holds the record with 101. Pinkel, who coached UT for 10 seasons through 2000, is the Rockets’ all-time win leader with 73. ... Umpire David Parker sprained his left knee in the first half and did not return.