ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The Ohio State rushing defense has been amongst the best in the country this season. Even after the Buckeyes' 42-41 victory over arch rival Michigan on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, the defense has still yet to allow a 100-yard rusher.
However, two Michigan running backs - both coming out of Trumbull County - made their marks on the Buckeye defense during the 110th installment of "The Game."
Senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, a 2009 Liberty graduate and a former Trumbull County Coaches Association Player of the Year, rushed for 33 yards on five carries, but scored a touchdown in the back-and-forth contest in which every point counted. He also had four catches for 41 yards with a long of 29.
Saturday was Toussaint's final game at Michigan Stadium, as he is one of 17 seniors leaving the program after the to-be-named bowl game later this month. Through Saturday, Toussaint has 2,288 yards on the ground and 27 career touchdowns. In the air, he has caught 30 passes for 298 yards over his career.
While Toussaint's time as a Wolverine is ending, De'Veon Smith's career is just beginning to blossom.
The 2013 Howland graduate, playing as a true freshman for Michigan, was the leading rusher for the Wolverines on Saturday, racking up 57 yards on seven carries - an 8.1 yards-per-touch average. His longest run of the day was a 38-yard blast, which came with him shaking off an Ohio State defender who nearly brought him down. That run was the longest one Ohio State has allowed this season.
Saturday's game for Smith was the official coming-out party for the reigning Trumbull County Coaches Association Player of the Year and county's all-time rushing leader. Smith has been a consistent presence on special teams and had a few carries during the season for Michigan. But against the Buckeyes, Smith had his first of what should be many career days with the Wolverines. He had 41 yards against Northwestern and 12 against Central Michigan this season.
Smith wasn't the only freshman to step up to the plate for the Wolverines on Saturday. Tight end Jake Butt had five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Michigan senior lineman Taylor Lewan was impressed with the way the two stepped up during the biggest game of the year.
"When a guy's number gets called, we have to step up," Lewan said. "That's what we do every single time. My name was called as a freshman; you're expected to play at the Michigan level, not as a freshman. I'm proud of those guys. This team will be a Big Ten championship team before you know it."