PISCATAWAY — Karan Higdon knew how close he was to the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
After all, just this summer he sat at Big Ten Media Days and said he would have entered the NFL Draft had he crossed the 1,000-yard threshold in 2017-18. So the senior running back had to have known that his two-yard carry late in the second quarter against Rutgers on Saturday got him over the milestone.
Yet, for the most part, Higdon kept it to himself.
When asked about the milestone after the Michigan football team dominated the Scarlet Knights, 42-7, junior defensive end Rashan Gary said he hadn’t heard Higdon mention it this season.
“I feel like Karan, he had a goal in his head,” Gary said. “He said it last year. There’s no reason to keep talking about it. You know, the season went on, he kept getting better and better — progressing, progressing. You know, he attacked his goal, and we knew it was coming by the way he worked and by the way he leads the team. So, you know, I’m happy for him.”
Gary’s statement is a team-wide response. Well, almost all of it.
The team-wide part: Anybody can see the improvements Higdon has made this season. Until Saturday, he had seven-straight 100-yard games. His teammates clearly respect him, or they wouldn’t have named him one of four captains before the season.
The other part — that Higdon kept his yearning for the milestone a secret — isn’t entirely true. At the very least, he mentioned his quest for 1,000 yards to redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry, one of his close friends on the team and one of the players who would be blocking for Higdon on Saturday.
“He was talking about it before today’s game,” Gentry said. “He was like, ‘We’ve gotta get me over that 1,000-yards mark.’ And that was a big, kind of, incentive for the offensive line to go out there and make sure we’re getting all of our blocks, because we do care about Karan and he has earned that. So we wanted to get him over that hump.
“Oh yeah, he said that today, and I said, ‘We’ve got you. I’ll be blocking for you.’ ”
For as inspiring as Higdon is to his teammates, the run that broke his season total into four figures was far from the most inspired Higdon has produced this year.
He took a simple handoff on 3rd-and-5 and didn’t come close to the first down. In fact, the run was a part of an uninspired performance for Higdon, in comparison to what he has done the rest of the season.
Higdon finished with just 42 yards on 15 carries, though he did punch in two touchdowns.
Still, what Higdon did against Rutgers was enough to push him past 1,000 yards.
“It’s unbelievable,” said junior quarterback Shea Patterson. “It’s really cool, especially, you know, going — we went with him in the spring and summer and saw all the hard work he put in. And, you know, he’s such a pivotal leader on this team. So just to see him accomplish that goal, it’s amazing, because we all know how hard he’s worked to get it.”
Perhaps that work in the offseason was a product of what Higdon mentioned in July. If Gentry is to be believed, Higdon has been thinking about his 1,000 yards since then.