Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview the UM-Maryland and MSU-Northwestern games this weekend. The Detroit News, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan running back Karan Higdon didn't know heading into last week’s game at Northwestern that he would pretty much handle all of the Wolverines’ rushing attack.
Higdon had a career-high 30 carries that gained 115 yards and scored two touchdowns in the comeback victory. He missed one game because of injury this season but is ninth nationally and second in the Big Ten in rushing averaging 119.8 yards a game.
He leads the team with 479 yards on 76 carries and has five touchdowns entering Saturday’s game against Maryland at Michigan Stadium.
After handling so many carries, in part because running back Chris Evans missed his second consecutive game because of injury, Higdon said this week his recovery was fairly simple.
“Cold tub, hot tub, massage, sleep,” he said.
“I was just doing my job. Felt good throughout the game, felt good after the game, got some rehab in and feel even better now.”
Higdon, the team’s offensive player of the year last season, finished with 994 rushing yards and said had he hit 1,000 he very well may have made a run at the NFL.
Instead, he returned to the Wolverines and has run hard and pass protected well this season.
“He’s got the ability to run all the assortment of runs,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said earlier this week. “He’s not in a category where he can only run outside runs or inside runs. He can do both and also pass protect.
"High level of trust with Karan in every phase including ball security.”
Michigan running back Karan Higdon met the media this week, ahead of Saturday's game vs. Maryland. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Having the kind of workload Higdon had last week suggests a high level of trust from the coaching staff. His previous high for carries at Michigan was 25 last season at Indiana.
“That’s one of the biggest things emphasized when I came in, being a guy who is reliable and consistent, someone the coaches can depend on,” Higdon said. “That’s what everyone works on. Knowing I have that trust is great.”
Where Harbaugh has seen Higdon’s game evolve is yards after contact.
“If a play’s blocked for two yards, he’s getting four and five,” Harbaugh said. “The thing he’s continuing to build on is his ability to catch the ball. He’s done that. Been able to turn a four-yard gain into a seven- or eight- or nine-yard gain, making the first defender miss, bleed out more yardage. He’s been consistently good and improved in that area.”
Higdon credits strength coach Ben Herbert for helping him get stronger, hence, improving in yards after contact. He weighed 189 pounds last season and is now 205.
“Credit to the strength staff, getting a lot bigger this offseason, more muscle mass, more weight, prepared my body to take more hits,” Higdon said. “Last year I ran the same way, ran hard, ran angry. Doing the same thing this year, I’m just a little heavier. I just do my job. I’m just running.”
UM coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media this week, ahead of Saturday's game vs. Maryland. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Higdon said the backs never go into a game knowing how many carries they will have.
“You may get 30, you may get two,” he said. “However it is, you have to make the best of it.”
But as most backs will tell you, the more carries they have in a game, the better they get. There is a game rhythm for a running back, and Higdon got into a rhythm running at Northwestern.
“I’ve always been the type of player to get stronger as the game goes on,” he said. “Whenever I’m getting more carries, I’m getting hotter and hotter.”
But one thing never changes whether he gets 30 carries or two.
“I run each and every play the same way with a full head of steam,” Higdon said.
Maryland at Michigan
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Records: Maryland 4-1, 1-1 Big Ten; Michigan 4-1, 2-0
Line: Michigan by 17