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Hughes makes most of opportunity

Michael Bryan | Monday, November 2, 2009

SAN ANTONIO — Junior running back Robert Hughes hasn’t always known when he would play or where he would play. But when given the opportunity with Armando Allen battling nagging injuries, Hughes has stepped up.

“When my number is called, I just want to go out and produce,” Hughes said. “I just try to focus on doing my job and making the best of my opportunities.”

Hughes rushed for a career-high 131 yards and a touchdown against Washington State in San Antonio, relentlessly pounding a struggling Cougars defense. The junior’s bruising runs helped the Irish dominated Washington State in time of possession, controlling the ball for over two-thirds of the game at 40:54.

“He did really well, stepping up for us, Armando was down and didn’t play, he ran the ball really well for us today,” Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen said.

Entering the season it appeared Hughes would see a decrease in playing time, as Allen was the clearly established starter and sophomore Jonas Gray stood in the second string on the depth chart.

Then Hughes was moved into a part-time role at fullback following an injury to senior James Aldridge against Nevada. As Allen battled injuries, however, Hughes began receiving more time at running back and earning carries.

“I really don’t know when the switch went on, but the switch definitely went on and he decided that this was what he was going to be,” said Weis. “Once he made that decision that this is how I am, run with my pads down, leaning forward, not trying to make everyone miss, once he made that decision, I think it’s kind of cleaned up for him how he’s going to play the game.”

Hughes rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown against Purdue while Allen sat out, and then ran for 70 yards and another score against Washington.

In San Antonio, with Allen out again, Hughes received 24 carries, only his second game with over ten this season. Hughes said the repetitions helped him get into the flow of the game and wear down the Cougars.

“It felt great, I got in a rhythm, coach kept calling my number and I just wanted to keep running the ball well, run the ball hard and keep getting yards,”  Hughes said.
Hughes also showed off his catching skills in the game, grabbed four receptions for 51 yards. It has been his running style, however, that’s set him apart from the rest of the tailbacks this season.

“[Running backs coach Tony Alford] always felt we’ve got a lot of little guys that can dance around everyone,” Weis said. “We’ve got Armando, we’ve got Theo, we’ve got guys that can dance around. He’d like to have that bruiser.”