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Post Dawgs get their tailback duo back together just in time

Friday September 10, 2010

They might run the state of Georgia, but can King and Ealey run the Palmetto State? Georgia’s biggest win without A.J. Green was last year’s upset of Tech in Atlanta, and the Bulldogs compensated for their missing star by leaning on a nasty running game that made fans of old school I-formation football all warm and fuzzy. Will another heavy dose of the running game be the strategy in Georgia’s first trip to a hostile stadium since that memorable game last November?

The running game was fair last week, but the stacked line used by UL-L resulted in a lot of ineffective runs. It wasn’t the best day for the line or even King himself. Mark Richt reminded us that, between injuries and Cordy Glenn’s bout with mono, the starting line hadn’t worked together much, and it showed. There were two false start penalties, Murray was scrambling a lot more than we’d like, and Georgia generally had trouble running straight ahead. Georgia’s most successful runs were plays to the outside – the end-around to Smith that started the second half or tosses to Thomas that allowed he and the athletic offensive line to get away from the traffic jam in the middle.

It’s reasonable to expect Georgia to lean on the running game this weekend – both to make up for the absence of Green as well as helping Murray along in his first road start. So King’s 47 yards in the opener are a bit concerning. Georgia didn’t fare particularly well on the ground against the Gamecocks a year ago either. The Dawgs tallied just 107 yards rushing, and 65 of those came on Branden Smith’s jaw-dropping run. The cast of characters has changed a great deal in just a year though. Neither King nor Ealey played, and the offensive line was still coming to grips with another season-ending injury to Sturdivant.

But Ealey is back now, and King and Ealey, like Hall and Oates, are much better as a duo. The two battled injuries during the first half of last season, and neither was as effective without the other at full strength. King’s best effort without Ealey was a 59-yard contribution at Arkansas. As Ealey started to emerge midseason, his best effort was 71 yards at Vanderbilt while King was limited by a broken jaw. The turning point followed the Florida game when both were finally healthy. Ealey was averaging 48 YPG following the Florida game. King was averaging just 31 YPG. As a tandem down the stretch, both improved. King averaged 88 YPG over the final five games with no game lower than 60 yards. Ealey’s averaged shot up to 105 YPG over the last five games with 77 yards against Kentucky as his low point.

I was surprised to see that the Gamecocks allowed just 67 yards on the ground to Southern Miss last week because it seemed like it was much less. USM just got nothing from their rushing game. We’ll carry the standard disclaimers about it being Southern Miss and their woefully inexperienced offensive line. Still, you’d expect South Carolina to be solid against the run: their competent secondary allows the front seven room to take some chances. Georgia has averaged just 114 yards rushing against South Carolina over the past three years, and not even Knowshon could help much. Will the team of Ealey and King make the difference this time? The Bulldogs will be hoping for a result more like 2006 when they put up 198 rushing yards in support of another freshman quarterback making his SEC debut in Columbia.

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