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Post Not the first time a Spurrier tailback has done in Georgia

Tuesday September 14, 2010

Nearly every wrap-up of the South Carolina game has noted how out-of-character it was for a Steve Spurrier team to lean on the running game en route to victory. True, the man will always be defined by his stormy relationships with his quarterbacks and a preference for throwing early and often. Spurrier might pass to set up the run, but his best teams have always been able to run. Earnest Graham, Errict Rhett, and Fred Taylor were every bit as valuable to Florida football as any of the celebrated quarterbacks and receivers during the Spurrier era. Three of Florida’s top five in career rushing yards played for Spurrier. Emmitt Smith left for the NFL rather than play for the pass-happy Spurrier, but within five years a Spurrier tailback (Rhett) replaced Smith atop Florida’s career rushing yardage list.

What I’m leading up to is that watching Marcus Lattimore on Saturday gave me more than a sick feeling about the current Georgia defense. There was also a strong sense of deja vu. Lattimore’s performance took me back to a rainy WLOCP against Florida in 1993 – the last Georgia/Florida game at the old Gator Bowl. Georgia fans will instantly remember it as the Timeout Game, but the turning point in the game was an extended Florida scoring drive that took up much of the third quarter.

Georgia trailed 13-3 early on and had all but abandoned their running game. “Air Georgia” was in full effect, and Eric Zeier ended up attempting a school-record 65 passes – most of which seemed to be to Shannon Mitchell. Despite the heavy rain, Georgia’s passing game got them back in the game and saw them nose ahead 20-13 late in the first half. Florida answered, and the Gators had pulled back ahead 23-20 early in the second half. Then Rhett took over.

We’ll let the NY Times tell the story. Rhett “carried 14 times for 46 yards during an 80-yard touchdown drive he capped with a 1-yard dive for a 30-20 lead late in the third quarter.” The rain helps the metaphor: it was water torture. This wasn’t the quick-strike Fun n’ Gun. It was yard by excruciating yard, first down after first down. Rhett averaged just over 3 YPC on the drive, and that seems about right. It’s not that he’d go for 15 on one carry and lose ground the next. He’d get just over three yards on every damn carry. Georgia had chance after chance to stop the march, but Rhett kept falling forward just enough to move the chains. Even his scoring play took just a yard.

That 1993 game is remembered much more for how it was lost rather than how it was won, but Rhett’s unstoppable drive in the rain and mud was the real story. Rhett finished the day with 183 yards and two touchdowns. Lattimore finished Saturday’s game with 182 yards and…two touchdowns. Neither did it with incredibly long runs or amazing speed. Both instead beat Georgia with a consistent toughness that the Bulldog defense couldn’t match. South Carolina has an interesting passing game with an experienced quarterback and everything from tall receiving targets to explosive waterbug Ace Sanders. But given a capable tailback, Spurrier has as much experience as any coach in the conference when it comes to leaning on that tailback en route to a successful season.

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  • While SOS did run the ball he usually ran it as was pointed out in the story, to seal the deal. Saturday he ran it as the deal.