ATHENS - The head coach and offensive coordinator are both former quarterbacks. The last quarterback set SEC passing records, and the past few years have seen the offense open up and air it out.
And yet through three games, the Georgia football team has been spectacular running the ball, with the passing game an afterthought.
So head coach Mark Richt was asked Sunday if, given the talent at running back, this is just who Georgia is going to be this year?
“Yeah it’s possible,” Richt said. “There’s no doubt there’s talented bunch of backs, and we’re run-blocking pretty darn good. It’s not a bad way to play a ball game.” It’s only a small sample, but Georgia ranks 12th nationally in rushing offense, at 304 yards per game, and second nationally in yards per rush attempt, at 7.73. Only Wisconsin is better.
On the other hand, Georgia ranks 107th nationally in passing yards per game (167.3), and 102nd in yards per pass completion (10.46).
But Georgia is one of nine teams – 7 percent of FBS – which has not had a pass intercepted this year.
That formula – a dominant run game and a mistake-free pass game – has been good enough to average 48.6 points through three games, two of which were against top 25 foes.
“When you’re running for the types of big yardage that we were getting, it’s hard to sit there and say, Hey we’ve gotta start throwing it all over the yard,” Richt said.
Even quarterback Hutson Mason, who had in mind bigger numbers for his one season as starter, acknowledged that in Todd Gurley and freshmen Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, the team has special talent.
“I think the last dual combo I remember that was this good was Cadillac (Williams) and Ronnie (Brown),” Mason said, harkening back to Auburn’s unbeaten 2004 team.
Gurley, Michel and Chubb is each averaging more than 9.5 yards per carry. Gurley’s average of 9.8 leads the nation, per the NCAA stats, while Michel (10.3 yards per carry) and Chubb (9.5) don’t have the minimum yet to register in that category. The trio has accounted for eight touchdowns, while Gurley also has the 100-yard kickoff return touchdown.
There are still hopes for the passing game, especially once Malcolm Mitchell (recovery from knee surgery) and Justin Scott-Wesley (suspended) return, which could be soon.
The hope is the run game could also eventually help the passing game, as opponents gear their plan more around stopping the run.
“It helps the play-action pass, we like doing that, we always have,” Richt said.
The plan was actually to throw it more against Troy on Saturday, but the Trojans surprised the Bulldogs by not packing the box as much. They played two safeties back most of the time, causing Mason and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to audible into run plays.
“This last game, we might could’ve said, Hey let’s throw it 50 times and see what kind of success we can have,” Richt said. “But we just felt it was more important to basically take what they give us.”
That doesn’t figure to be how most defenses play Georgia. Mason also figures to see his passing numbers increase, as he gets more receivers and more conducive defenses to pass against.
Still, as tight end Jay Rome put it last week: “When you have a running back like Todd Gurley, get him the ball.”
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