Analysis: Time to give Tevin Coleman his due

Tevin Coleman became the 18th player in FBS history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season when he gained 130 yards against Purdue Saturday in the Old Oaken Bucket game.

It’s time to once and for all give Tevin Coleman his due.

The Big Ten may not be willing to do so (no player of the week honors the last two weeks despite running for 307 against Rutgers and 228 against Ohio State) but somebody needs to stand up and trumpet his accomplishments.

Coleman has joined the very exclusive 2,000-yard rushing club.

It has only happened 18 times in FBS history. And Coleman is the most recent.

Making his accomplishment that much more impressive is that for the last six games of the season, every defense IU played had one goal in mind: stopping Coleman.

Think about it: When Nate Sudfeld went down with a shoulder injury in early October, a mishap that essentially ended the Indiana football team’s hopes at getting to a bowl game, Coleman became the guy.

He was basically Indiana’s offense. All opposing defenses pretty much had to do was stop Coleman and they would stop Indiana. Quickly, Coleman was seeing more guys packing the box with one goal in mind: to prevent him from running the football.

Through six games, Coleman had gained 1,058 yards. At that point, facing the mountain he was about to climb, you wondered if Coleman had a chance to challenge Vaughn Dunbar’s school record of 1,805 yards, a record that had stood for more than 20 years.

Coleman’s chances didn’t look good. Especially considering he was about to enter the meat of the schedule where he would face the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Rutgers and Purdue.

So all the junior tailback did was go out and demolish Dunbar’s single season record. Defenses designed to stop Coleman? He didn’t care. He just took one opponent at a time and made defenses look silly.

When it came to an end Saturday afternoon, with a 23-16 victory over rival Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket game, Coleman had 2,036 yards. That’s more than 200 yards over the old record set by Dunbar.

And it came with some special accolades. Coleman became the 18th rusher in FBS history reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season and he’s the sixth Big Ten running back to accomplish the feat.

He went into Saturday’s game needing 94 yards to hit 2,000. He got there in the fourth quarter. He finished with 130 yards on 29 carries, reaching the 100-yard rushing mark for one game for the 11th time in 12 games. That’s tops in the nation.

But there was a time early in the game when it all looked very much in jeopardy. Coleman got caught up in an abundance of Purdue defenders and got bent back over the pile. He stayed down on the ground for a long time and they sent the trainers out on to the field. After a few minutes he got to his feet and gingerly limped off the field.

One of our staff interns remarked in our Live In-Game Thread that perhaps we had just witnessed Coleman’s final carry of the season.

I believed it was going to take a lot more than that to keep Coleman down. He said after the game that his only focus was on winning and not so much on eclipsing the 2,000 yard mark but I’m not sure I buy that completely. It’s human nature to want to achieve things that very few people in history have accomplished.

Being part of a club that only 18 people in history are a member of is something special. And so I wasn’t surprised at all when after a short stint getting re-taped on the trainer’s table behind the bench, Coleman was back in on IU’s next offensive series.

In many ways Coleman’s final game was representative of his season. He got banged up a couple of times early but always found a way to come back. I remember a game against Missouri early in the year where he cramped up and was on the sideline with teammates holding towels up high so that the TV cameras couldn’t see what they were doing. Coleman ended up missing most of the second quarter.

Then all he did was come back to run for 132 yards, most of it in the second half as IU upset the Tigers.

Most people expect that Coleman, despite being a junior, has played his final downs of football at Indiana. The NFL will be calling and Coleman’s stock will never be higher than it is right now.

All I can say is IU fans should look back fondly at the 12 games they just witnessed with Coleman running the football. It will be a long time before Hoosier fans or college football fans in general see another season that resembles this one.

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