Joe Bergeron celebrated his birthday in style by making Tech defenders miss all Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
This evening cannot end without giving a shoutout to true freshman running back Joe Bergeron, who celebrated his birthday by surging for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in his first starring action as a collegian against Texas Tech Saturday afternoon.
With fellow frosh Malcolm Brown sidelined with a turf toe injury that didn't get keep from suiting up for the game -- Mack Brown said afterwards that Brown could have played if needed -- Bergeron ran around and through Texas Tech defenders all day. Mostly through them.
The effort included a 51-yard explosion down the sideline after getting onto the edge, the longest run of the season for the Longhorns, surpassing David Ash's earlier 47-yard scamper up the middle of the Red Raider defense on a play that was designed to be one of his rare passing attempts.
As well as Brown has played, Bergeron has been even more of a revelation. Expected to contribute early as a fullback or H-back because of his strength and good hands out of the backfield, the Mesquite product has instead showed load-back ability, finishing runs with violence, hitting his holes with momentum, and making defenders miss down the field with a slipperiness that has been as much in abundance the last several weeks as it ever was in high school for him.
By turning his hips on contact, Bergeron can wiggle through defenders by presenting little surface to bring him down, a major aspect of what helps him maximize his runs.
When he does have to take defenders straight on, he uses his superior pad level and 230-pound frame to brutalize defenders every bit as well as does Malcolm Brown, who has 45% of his yards after contact this season, but provides opponents a slightly larger tackling surface.
Fortunately for Texas, the Longhorns barely managed to avoid leaving Bergeron on the field for one too many plays. Game well in hand, Bergeron developed a cramp on his final run and was down on the field for several nervous moments for Texas fans, well after he should have been on the sideline in favor of Jeremy Hills.
It's difficult to project whether Brown's turf toe will linger -- it's certainly the type of injury that can linger -- but Saturday's contest against Texas Tech definitively proved that the less heralded back in the 2011 class can produce just as well as his much more heralded classmate.
Joey B is a tailback and he's at the position to stay by giving himself a pretty sweet birthday present he isn't likely to forget any time soon.