Georgia offense looking for consistency in the running game against Kentucky
For Georgia’s players, the key to earning a win against Kentucky is simple.
“We just need to come out and play our ball,” Georgia center Lamont Gaillard said. “If we play our ball, we’re going to do well this game.”
When that formula is dissected, though, the key becomes a bit more complicated.
The Bulldogs are coming off a win against Florida in which run defense was inconsistent (the Gators rushed for 170 yards) and offensive production faltered at times, particularly on the goal line. Georgia had its third-worst rushing game of the season, as the Bulldogs’ 189 yards on the ground were just 76 more than its season-low of 113 in the loss to LSU.
Georgia established an identity earlier in the season when it ran for over 200 yards against South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, but the Bulldogs have not been able to sustain the success as of late. With the SEC East at stake on Saturday against the Wildcats, Georgia running back D’Andre Swift noted that improvements in the running game will be vital in helping the Bulldog offense find its rhythm.
“I think that the more opportunities [the running backs] get, it just opens the game for so much more like passing the ball and running the ball,” Swift said. “If we do good, it opens the game up so much more.”
Georgia will need to find success against a Kentucky defense that is only allowing 108.5 rushing yards per game, though. A large part of that run-stopping responsibility lies with senior linebacker Josh Allen, who has 56 total tackles and 10 sacks for the Wildcats.
“Their linebackers do a great job of plugging the hole real fast,” Swift said. “So as running backs, we have to be more patient.”
Patience requires the Georgia offensive line to hold its blocks long enough for the running backs to find a hole, and Georgia’s offensive line is currently defined by its youth and its health.
But the young position group is led by its senior center in Gaillard, and if he is any indication, they look forward to an increased dedication to the running game.
“We’re a greedy O-line,” Gaillard said. “That’s what we like, we like to grind and run the ball. When we pass, we pass but when we run, we like to do that.”
Georgia’s committee of running backs may not need to out-gain Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. in order to win the game, as Snell already has 935 yards and as many touchdowns this season as Swift and Elijah Holyfield, combined. Instead, Gaillard referenced Swift’s 104-yard game against Florida as evidence that the Bulldog running backs will need to be consistent in order to open up Georgia’s full offensive potential.
“Swift is going to be Swift, we just need him to be him every game,” Gaillard said. “We’ve got multiple backs that are going to get in there and give us yards, and we’re going to block for them, so whoever’s in then that’s who we need.”