ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Derrick Green was one of the nation’s top running back recruits when he signed with Michigan last year.
After a quiet freshman season, he’s beginning to show what all the fuss was about.
Green ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, a bright spot in an uneven victory over Miami (Ohio). The Wolverines outgained the RedHawks 460-198, but a turnover-filled second quarter kept the game close for a while before Michigan eventually won 34-10.
It was a convincing final score, but Miami has lost 19 straight, so it’s hard to say how much progress the Wolverines are making. Green’s second 100-yard game in three weeks was noteworthy.
”Derrick Green had a great week of practice – probably as good as I’ve seen from him,” coach Brady Hoke said. ”He really had a great week – was finishing runs.”
Michigan’s running game fell apart last season behind a porous offensive line, but Green ran for 170 yards in this year’s opener against Appalachian State. He was held to 25 yards on 13 carries in a loss to Notre Dame the following weekend, but Miami couldn’t stop him.
With the game tied at 10 in the second quarter, Michigan drove 66 yards in six plays, taking the lead on Green’s 1-yard scoring run. The last four plays of that drive were runs by Green, covering 47 yards.
Green made it 31-10 with a 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth. That drive covered 68 yards – including 50 by Green on seven carries.
”As a running back, you want to keep getting the ball,” Green said. ”It just makes your energy just keep going up and up.”
Green and fellow running back De’Veon Smith signed with Michigan in 2013, and both played as freshmen. Green had 270 yards on 83 carries, while Smith rushed 26 times for 117 yards.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, last season’s leading rusher, is in the NFL now, so there’s plenty of playing time available for Green and Smith if they produce. Green had 22 carries Saturday – nobody else for either team was in double digits.
”We expected them to come out and run the ball down our throats and that’s what they tried to do,” Miami linebacker Kent Kern said.
Green has already rushed for 332 yards this season, surpassing his total from 2013. His season high as a freshman was 79 yards in a November win at Northwestern, and that game went to three overtimes.
Michigan lost two fumbles and an interception early in the second quarter Saturday – Green wasn’t responsible for any of that – so the Wolverines led only 17-10 at halftime. The crowd of 102,824 – Michigan’s smallest at home since 1995 – was growing frustrated.
The Wolverines missed wide receiver Devin Funchess, who didn’t play after appearing to hurt his leg against Notre Dame. Devin Gardner went 13 of 20 for 184 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
If Funchess is limited for any longer, there will be even more pressure on Green and the running backs.
Michigan hasn’t been able to rely heavily on one of its running backs since Mike Hart’s final season in 2007. Since then, the Wolverines’ most impressive runner was probably quarterback Denard Robinson, who surpassed 1,100 yards on the ground three straight seasons from 2010-12.
Toussaint peaked at 1,041 yards in 2011, but he broke his leg the following year. In Green, Michigan now has another promising back who may be able to help a running game that is still a work in progress.
”I think you’re always concerned about it. Would we have liked to run the ball better in the first half? No question,” Hoke said. ”We need to run it better, and that will be a main focus this week.”