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David Cobb threatening Gophers' single-season rushing mark

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Tony Ding/Associated Press
Minnesota running back David Cobb is on pace to rush for 1,732 yards.

Two tailbacks have had multiple 200-yard games this season. One is Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, who is receiving all sorts of acclaim (and deservedly so). The other also plays in the Big Ten and isn't receiving much (any?) attention: Minnesota's David Cobb.

Cobb (5-foot-11, 220 pounds), a senior from Killeen, Texas, ran for 220 yards in a win over Middle Tennessee State and for 207 yards in a victory over San Jose State. He rushed for 183 yards in last week's rout of Michigan and is eighth nationally at 144.4 rushing yards per game.

Cobb's per-game average has him on a pace to rush for 1,732 yards, which would break the school single-season record by almost 300 yards; first-round pick Laurence Maroney rushed for 1,464 yards in 2005. Maroney had three 200-yard games that season, also a school single-season record, so Cobb could tie or break that mark, too.

Cobb lacks elite speed; he has been clocked in the 4.55 range in the 40. He is a downhill runner, though, and does a nice job picking and choosing his holes.

"You don't have to be a 4.4 guy to be a good back; if you have vision and balance, that's going to be a big difference," Big Ten Network analyst Howard Griffith, a former NFL running back, told the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press. "Some guys when they're about to absorb contact, they get tight and they bend over, but their legs stop on contact. It's hard to get guys (such as Cobb) that can run as low, keep their eyes up and still be able to see what's going on and be able to take contact (and) still move forward. Clearly, he's worked at it."

Cobb was a little-known commodity until last season; he had 11 carries for 65 yards in his first two seasons on campus (he never redshirted), then emerged last season, eventually becoming the starter midway through the season. In his past 12 games, he has had seven 100-yard performances, including four of at least 180 yards.

He also has shown he can handle a heavy workload. Cobb is averaging 24.8 carries per game, the second-highest average in the nation, behind only James Conner of Pitt (26.8 per game). Three times he has had at least 29 carries this season, and he had four games of 27-plus carries last season.

"I haven't played that much," Cobb told the Pioneer-Press, "so I'm kind of fresh still."

And coach Jerry Kill seems fine with getting Cobb as many carries as he can handle.

"My dad taught me a long time ago if you got a good horse, ride him," Kill told the newspaper. "Why take him out if he's doing what he's doing?"

Cobb is considered a potential third-day draft pick. The Gophers haven't had a running back drafted since Maroney went in the first round in 2006; heck, Minnesota has had just six players drafted total since. Maroney's selection capped a three-year stretch in which Minnesota had one running back drafted each year (the others were Marion Barber III and Thomas Tapeh).

Minnesota (4-1) is off this weekend and has four of its next five at home. The Golden Gophers won eight games last season, their highest win total since they won 10 in 2003; it was just the fourth time Minnesota won as many as eight games since 1967. Minnesota should win at least seven this season, but getting to eight is going to require an upset.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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