Long run plays? ‘Definitely going to come,’ UGA’s Kenny McIntosh says

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

ATHENS – Through the first four games of the season, Georgia’s run game hasn’t looked quite as prolific as we’re used to seeing.

The top-ranked Bulldogs (4-0) are moving the ball just fine, but we haven’t yet seen those coveted long, explosive run plays from the running backs.

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“I think we’re doing pretty well, actually,” senior running back Kenny McIntosh said Monday. “We’ve been able to run the ball, I wouldn’t say how we like to run the ball, but we’ve been able to run the ball in between the tackles and outside, and stuff like that. I think we’ve been doing really well catching and stuff like that. Doing our jobs. And that’s what we need on this team, for everyone to do their job so that we can go back to back to where we (were) last year.”

So far, Georgia is ninth in the SEC in total rushing yards (724) and eighth in yards per game (181), though it is fifth in yards per rush attempt (5.44). The Bulldogs are averaging 181 rushing yards per game. That’s not far off from last season, when they averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 190.9 rushing yards per game.

But the longest run of the season belongs to tight end Brock Bowers, a 75-yard touchdown in Georgia’s win vs. Kent State on Saturday. (McIntosh gave Bowers major props for the play: “Brock Bowers is a dynamic player. I feel like he can do it all. I’ve seen it.”)

Four games in, junior running back Kendall Milton leads the Bulldogs with 210 rushing yards on 37 carries (averaging 52 rushing yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry, with three rushing touchdowns), followed by junior running back Daijun Edwards with 153 rushing yards on 26 carries (averaging 38.25 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry), then McIntosh with 97 yards on 25 carries (averaging 24.25 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry, with two rushing touchdowns).

McIntosh, who catches out of the backfield well, is tied with wide receiver Ladd McConkey for second on the team in receiving yards (227). But he’s got a feeling that some long runs are coming for the Bulldogs.

“Just being able to get into those long runs and stuff like that, but that has to come with being patient, as well,” McIntosh said. “But it’s going to come. Definitely going to come. Definitely, by the way we’re practicing and competing throughout the week. But it’s definitely going to come, there’s no doubt in my mind … Being patient running the ball throughout the holes and getting one of them long runs. We’ve been having decent runs, just being able to finish them, and stuff like that … I really think that getting vertical and downhill can make that run game be what it should be, I should say.”

There’s obviously ample talent to go around on this Georgia team, and it is excelling in the passing game with sixth-year senior quarterback Stetson Bennett (the Bulldogs are eighth in FBS in passing yards per game at 350.5).

Georgia coach Kirby Smart isn’t worried about the run game and mentioned the Bulldogs are hitting their goals – though they would welcome those explosive plays.

“We think we are successful in the run game,” Smart said. “I’m not talking about perimeter passing. I’m talking about we evaluate each and every carry independent of itself. And we think we hit our run goals. So when you start looking at that the way we calculated it, we did that. Now, being explosive, we certainly could be much more explosive in the run game and improve in that area.

“But, you know, when you have the number of explosive plays we’ve had on the year, you have to weigh whether that’s a run, a pass, a screen, what – who are you and who is your identity. And I think that’s starting to play itself out for us a little bit. And I think we’ve got a really physical offensive line. And I think teams play us a certain way. And we’re going to go off how teams play us.”

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