Nov. 18, 2007
By John DeShazier
Two grand for a struggling program and team that needed it, and for a splendid player that earned and deserved it.
"It feels great, to come out and do something that you dream of," Matt Forté said.
Except running for 2,000 yards in a single season is more than most players can wrap their arms and minds around, more than even Forté realistically sought.
"I guess I should say 'wildest dream,' " he said. "I mean, I dreamed of 1,000 yards, 1,500 yards. Two thousand is beyond a dream."
The 194 yards and five touchdowns (more on that later) he ran for in a 45-31 victory over Rice on Saturday gave him, appropriately, 2,007 yards rushing for the 2007 season. And made him the 11th player in Division I history to run for 2,000 yards in a season.
"He's too good to give any room to," Rice Coach David Bailiff said. "He's a great running back, and I think he proved that. We had to tackle him to win the football game, and we didn't do it."
Few people have tackled the problem Forté has presented this season.
"I want to thank my offensive line and my coaches for giving me a chance," he said, and he's as right as can be to do so.
A line has to dominate a lot of people on a lot of Saturdays for a back to touch two grand, and a coaching staff has to be willing to ride the back in good times and bad -- and Tulane improved to 4-7 on Saturday, so you know which times the Green Wave has experienced the most.
But there has to be at least a little something special about the back, great feet or sprinter's speed or special strength, or built like a tank with great feet and sprinter's speed and special strength.
"It's huge," Coach Bob Toledo said of the milestone. "You take such a pounding.
"He's just a fierce competitor, just a great talent. I think by him doing what he did, it makes us all prouder that we're putting this together, and we started doing it with his senior class."
"Class" being the operative word. Because no player, college or pro, exudes any more of it than does Forté, who at Rice Stadium showered accolades on teammates as he was receiving a deluge of praise.
After this season Tulane should consider making changes to the all-time records section in its media guide and should think about renaming the rushing segment of the book "The Forté Years" because he owns so many of the significant individual marks, and some of them aren't likely to be challenged or broken any time soon.
He has set the Conference USA and school single-season records for yards rushing, almost 600 yards more than No. 2 on the school list with one game remaining.
The five touchdown runs against Rice tied his conference and school single-game records. And Forté has rushed for 22 touchdowns this season, which is a school record (Charles "Peggy" Flournoy had 16 in 1925).
He has rushed for 38 touchdowns in his career, seven more than the old school record. And the 134 points he has scored is a school single-season record, as are his 2,272 all-purpose yards. And he's gaining more than 180 rushing yards per game this year; the old TU mark was 118.4.
They're dizzying, the numbers. But close track has been kept. Toledo asked to be notified when Forté got close to 2,000, and, sure enough, a call came in when the star runner was 6 yards short.
"I didn't know until I was that close," Forté said. "They try to keep you updated.
"I got excited. To be (6) yards away from making history? Everybody on the offensive line was excited, too."
They all should be excited. They all should be proud.
For Forté and Tulane, call it TU Grand.