It may be easy to overlook Georgia’s run game given how well the passing game came together against Missouri.
Among the talking points: Jake Fromm completing 18 of 26 passes for 326 yards, Javon Wims finishing with 95 yards receiving, Riley Ridley’s field awareness on his first quarter touchdown catch on third down.
It was a night in which head coach Kirby Smart’s offense “grew up from a passing standpoint”.
Still, the plethora of Georgia running backs continue to keep on keeping on. Saturday, this group started slowly, but finished strong.
In the first quarter, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Brian Herrien combined for just 10 yards rushing. Mecole Hardman added a 35-yard touchdown run. A combination of symptoms triggered Georgia’s slow start. According to Hardman, the biggest obstacle to running the ball early was the energy level shown by both teams.
“It wasn’t that we couldn’t run it,” Hardman said. “In the first quarter everything is so high energy and [Missouri] has a great d-line, so we had to wear them down.”
In addition that energy, a solid defensive Missouri defensive line, there is the fact that this is the SEC and defending the run is a conference staple.
“It’s hard running the ball in this league, I keep telling y’all it’s hard to run the ball,” Smart said. “Early. you have to earn it. You have to get the hard yards. You have to pound it. If you keep chopping, it will usually pay off with the backs we’ve got, but you aren’t just going to walk out there and have success running it in this league. You have to be able to throw and catch the ball.”
And that was precisely what the Georgia offense did, as all of UGA’s 75 yards in its second touchdown drive came from the air. Hardman said this needed to happen in order to free up the backs.
“Eventually we are able to get the running game going, that’s why the passing game came in,” Hardman said. “We had to throw the ball on the outside a little bit and get the box number down. Then, when we did that, we figured out we were able to run the ball.”
And run the ball they did, as Georgia would go on to finish the night with 370 total rushing yards. Freshman D’Andre Swift led the charge for the tailbacks with 94 total rushing yards, 71 of those coming off of one run in the third quarter. Swift’s 71-yarder was Georgia’s longest run from the line of scrimmage and was the longest run by a Georgia running back since Nick Chubb’s 83-yard touchdown run against Alabama in 2015.
Sony Michel also contributed to the team’s rushing yards, adding 88 yards and two touchdowns to the mix.
All of this to say that while it took a few minutes, Georgia’s tailbacks were not going to go away quietly against Missouri. And because of this, the offense was able to see its most balanced performance yet.
Georgia gained 370 yards on the ground and 326 in the air. UGA would have finished with 700 total offensive yards had Fromm not taken a knee on the game’s final snap. It was a balance that the Bulldogs needed to see in order to become a better, well-rounded offense.
“There is always intent [to get the passing game involved],” Smart said. “You want to be balanced and to be balanced you have to be able to run and throw it.”