This is part two of an eight-part series where the Daily Mississippian’s David Collier and Matt Sigler give a position-by-position breakdown of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl featuring Ole Miss and Georgia Tech. Today, we will take a look at the running backs.
Running, running and more running. That is the heart of the Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3 ACC) triple-option rushing attack, and it is also what makes the Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) offense go.
Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee may begin the play, it all comes down to the play of the Yellow Jacket running backs, and they have quite a few talented ones. Georgia Tech had three running backs eclipse the 450 rushing yard mark on the year. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC) on the other hand, will be looking to awaken a struggling running game that took a deep dive at the end of the season.
Leading the way for Georgia Tech is David Sims. He was second on the team in carries to Lee, but led the Yellow Jackets with 846 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 5.6 yards per carry. Robert Godhigh and Zach Laskey will also get their fair share of carries with Godhigh going for 694 yards on the year and Laskey racking up 460 of his own. They also finished with six and seven touchdowns, respectively.
Things will continue to be shifting in the Ole Miss backfield with Jaylen Walton, I’Tavius Mathers, Jeff Scott and possibly Mark Dodson splitting carries. Scott, who ended the regular season with 493 yards and two touchdowns, missed a lot of time the last half of the season with a bone spur in his back that was causing a nerve to flare up in his leg. However, Scott has been a full participant in bowl practices, according to multiple media reports, and he should be back in the mix for the bowl game.
Walton and Mathers proved how valuable they were filling in for Scott. Mathers led the team with 506 yards and three touchdowns, while Walton racked up 469 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
The sophomore duo was also a valuable asset in the passing game, as Walton had 26 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns and Mathers had six catches for 41 yards.
It is no secret Georgia Tech will come into this game wanting to continually pound the ball on the ground, and for the Yellow Jackets, the play of their running backs is going to be the key to the game.
With the triple-option attack, Ole Miss can expect to see a lot of rotation between the three major backs and schemes to exploit their strengths. Assignment football will be the key for the Rebel defense and slowing down the potent rushing attack that averages over 300 yards per game is not going to be an easy task.
If Ole Miss is unable to run the ball in this game, they are in for a long night. The lack of a running game and production from the running backs in the Rebels’ final few games is really what cost this offense.
Look for Ole Miss to try and stay true to the run in an attempt to hold onto the ball longer and give the defensive side of the ball a break, which will likely be on the field for long periods of time with such a run heavy offense like Georgia Tech.
Tomorrow, David Collier will breakdown the wide receivers and tight ends for Ole Miss and Georgia Tech.
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– Matt Sigler