Running game a work in progress

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s running game is obviously still a work in progress because of inexperience on its offensive line and in the backfield.

But when the Bulldogs have run the plays as designed thus far -- which they’ve done more often than not -- they provide signs that this will become a good rushing team as the season progresses.

“I can’t really remember any times where we haven’t run the ball pretty well,” Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray said. “I thought we’ve done a great job. I think the line’s opened up some huge holes, and I think the running backs have had some big, big plays. So I can’t really see any lull at all.”

The Bulldogs’ issue through two games mostly has been consistency, which is to be expected for an offensive line with three new starters and a backfield that features two true freshmen -- Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall -- and sophomore Ken Malcome.

“Yeah, we need to be more consistent,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We’re getting there. There’s some young linemen, inexperienced, there’s young backs, so it’s a little bit understandable.”

Georgia mostly had its way on the ground in the opener against Buffalo, rushing 39 times for 227 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and two touchdowns -- both of which came from Gurley, who totaled eight carries for 100 yards.

Rushing yardage was tougher to come by last Saturday against Missouri, with the Bulldogs accumulating just 113 yards and two scores off of 35 attempts (3.2 ypc). And that includes a 44-yard Gurley run in the fourth quarter.

But the Bulldogs believe they found something in the second half of the Missouri game after struggling for the first two quarters in their first SEC road game as a group. They scored on five out of six possessions at one point in the second half, and when they cleared space, there was often a sizable gap for the tailback to hit.

“We kind of had a rough start. We were trying to figure out their defense because they were all over the place,” left tackle Kenarious Gates said. “But after halftime, as we regrouped, we just told ourselves to keep playing and just go out there and play and run the ball, draw your feet, get your hat on the right man and do your assignment, and that’s what we did.”

As Richt said, it’s a matter of developing consistency, which the Bulldogs believe will come as they continue to gain experience and work together.

The starting line -- Gates, left guard Dallas Lee, center David Andrews, right guard Chris Burnette and right tackle John Theus -- has been intact for only two games. Junior Gates, sophomore Andrews and true freshman Theus are starting for the first time at their respective positions. And while all of them have had their issues as they adjust to new roles, they also believe they are closer to excellence than it might appear.

“It’s just the little things,” Andrews said. “Finishing just an extra second longer or a missed assignment. During the game you don’t really see it, but you sit down and watch film and, I can speak personally for myself, I wasn’t able to get through on one play, and it looked like if I was able to get my guy, it would’ve busted. It’s little things like that. We’re so close, but we’ve got to keep getting better.”

Richt pointed out that the young backs also must learn when and how to hit the proper holes -- another work in progress with the explosive freshmen in particular -- but Bulldogs like tight end Jay Rome believe that as they continue to work together, “we’re not going to do anything but get better.”

“If I look back in the backfield, it doesn’t matter who’s back there, I know if any of those guys gets it in their hand and we give them the right blocks, they can take it for six at any point in the game,” Rome said. “I really feel like that’s a great thing for us, just having those guys back there that can take it to the house.”