In the absence of injured junior running back Chris Evans, senior back Karan Higdon has become the workhorse of Michigan’s stable of ball-carriers.
On Saturday against Maryland, another blue-collar performance: 25 carries for 103 yards, a 4.1-yard average. Michigan’s next most-called upon back only toted the ball five times.
But also, a career milestone.
In the second quarter, Higdon surpassed 2,000 rushing yards in his career.
“It’s amazing,” Higdon said about the feat. “To do it at a traditional school like Michigan is something that is life-fulfilling. I’m excited for it. I’m so thankful and blessed”
Among Higdon’s blessings are innate abilities to find extra yardage and always and maintain his balance.
It’s not that Higdon doesn’t have speed. He’s ripped off several long touchdowns over the years, but he really excels in getting the guaranteed yardage.
It’s a talent that’s landed him at No. 20 on Michigan’s all-time rushers list, just behind quarterback Rick Leach. If Higdon never carried the ball again, he’d still be Michigan’s best ball-carrier since Denard Robinson. He’s averaging 117 yards per game this year, and if that pace holds up, he’ll probably finish the year with about 2,800 career rushing yards, good for about 10th on Michigan’s all-time list, near Tim Biakabutuka’s 2,810.
“He’s just getting the extra yards,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s broken some big runs in his career, and he has this year. The strength I think he’s developed this off-season and the determination that he has to help our team shows up in those carries where it looks like it’s going to be a minus-one or a no gain and he turns it into a four-yard gain, or a one-yard gain into a six-yard gain. Good backs, if it’s blocked for zero they get two, or if it’s blocked for two, they get five. He’s really showing that right now.”
One of the reasons Michigan’s approach to the run-game was by committee was because Higdon’s ability to protect quarterback Shea Patterson was seen as a relative weakness. But on third and long in the last couple games, Higdon’s getting lifted less often.
“His pass protection has improved immensely,” Harbaugh said about his senior back. “It’s important to him. He’s done a terrific job training and preparing himself for the season.”
The o-line’s run blocking really started to come on in the second half of last year and has mostly picked up where it left off, paving the way for Higdon’s solid numbers.
“Each and every week you see them progress more and more,” Higdon said about the road-graders in front of him. “They brought it each and every play. It’s showing every Saturday.”
Harbaugh offenses have no shortage of run-blockers, even beyond the o-line, and Higdon certainly seems aware of that:
“Shout-out to my o-line, my previous o-lines since I’ve been here, the fullbacks, (Henry) Poggi, Khalid (Hill), Ben Mason, Jared Wangler,” Higdon said. “Really, it’s just thanks to all those guys. I couldn’t do it without them.”