Florida, Georgia enter SEC East showdown with questions surrounding rushing attacks
Florida and Georgia share something in common.
Both enter Saturday’s showdown with big question marks surrounding their running games.
The Gators are trying to get more production on the ground behind an inexperienced offensive line after averaging 99.4 rushing yards per contest and 2.9 yards per carry in five conference games this season.
“It’s not good enough, and it’s obvious,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “We’ve got to get better. We haven’t created explosive runs. And look, the guys are trying. But obviously it’s not where we expect it to be or where it’s going to be. We’ve got to get better there.”
On the other side, Georgia is trying to fill the massive void left by star running back Nick Chubb, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee on Oct. 10. Plantation-American Heritage product Sony Michel is Chubb’s fill-in, but Michel had never received more than 10 carries in a college game before this season.
“I won’t say I’m comfortable being the running back because everyone’s replaceable,” Michel said to reporters this week. “I’m comfortable with playing that role as the starting running back. It is an opportunity for me to help this team go to the SEC Championship.”
Since Chubb suffered his knee injury on the first play from scrimmage against Tennessee, Michel has run for 232 yards on 48 carries over the past two games.
“It sounds like a lot but after the game it surprises me, like, ‘Dang, I had that many carries?’” Michel said. “It doesn’t even feel like I get so many carries.”
A lot has changed since Florida and Georgia combined to run for 559 yards in last year’s matchup, with the Gators accounting for 418 of them.
In fact, Florida hasn’t come close to matching last season’s rushing total against the Bulldogs in any game this season. The Gators haven’t even exceeded 418 rushing yards over its past four games, combining for 377 yards on the ground in that time.
“I have to be a better running back, and this week everyone will see I will be a lot better running back than I was in the past game,” Florida running back Kelvin Taylor said. “I can’t wait. I have a great big chip on my shoulder and I’m just ready for Saturday.”
Taylor leads the Gators with 463 yards on a team-high 129 carries this season. But the former Glades Day star has not averaged more than 3.5 yards per carry since Sept. 26 against Tennessee.
Florida has just one run of 20 yards or longer in five SEC games and it came on a 47-yard play from Taylor. The junior hopes to add some more to that list after running for a career-high 197 yards against Georgia last season.
“If we’re not all on the same page and all playing together at a high level on every single play, you’re not going to get those explosive type runs,” Gators running backs coach Tim Skipper said. “Then once we do get there, we’ve got to beat some safeties. There’s been plenty of times we’ve been one-on-one and they’ve made some plays.”
Both teams are hoping last week’s downtime is exactly what their running games needed.
Georgia used its bye week to help Michel recover from a hip pointer injury, and Florida used its bye week to focus on improving its rushing attack.
“We’ll run the ball a whole lot better this week than what we have been running the ball,” Taylor said. “We can’t wait. I can’t wait to show everyone that I’m a good running back. So I’m just ready. I can’t wait.”