Georgia reached a tipping point a year ago against Florida.
Struggling to run the ball throughout the 2016 season, the Bulldogs trekked to Jacksonville and only mustered 21 rushing yards against a stingy Florida front. The Gators forced the Georgia offense to turn to the passing game earlier than it would have liked, which prompted running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to meet with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney days later about the direction of the rushing attack.
A year later, Georgia hasn’t experienced those kind of problems. The Bulldogs have been explosive in the run game and are averaging an SEC second-best 282.9 rushing yards per game. While the Gators stunted Georgia’s run game a year ago, the Bulldogs are hopeful of rectifying that area this time around.
“It’s a big stat for SEC play in general,” Michel said. “They always say who every runs the ball the best and stops the run the best will win the game. That’s our focus. Our defense will try to stop the run and we’re going to try to run the ball.”
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Michel said last year’s loss, and the way the Georgia run game was negated, isn’t the sort of motivation he’s drawing from for Saturday’s game. Instead, it is more about keeping pace with the kind of rushing production Georgia has put on the field in the seven previous wins.
Tight end Charlie Woerner said it wasn’t just last year’s game against Florida that was frustrating when it came to running the ball. The inconsistencies throughout the 2016 season were something the entire offense wanted to move past.
“That was one of our biggest emphases this offseason, was getting the run game better,” Woerner said. “As you can see we’ve gotten a whole lot better this entire season. It’s just like any other game, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been working on since August.”
Georgia’s offensive line has played a big role in aiding a backfield that has gone five-deep at times. While Chubb and Michel have carried the majority of the load, D’Andre Swift, Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield have all been factors in various games.
Of the three backups behind Chubb (688 yards, eight touchdowns) and Michel (492 yards, six touchdowns), Swift is Georgia’s third-leading rusher with 358 yards and a touchdown.
That kind of attack will look to reverse what transpired against the Gators the last time the two teams met in Jacksonville, Florida.
“They just do a good job of complementing each other,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. “I see the unselfish nature in which those guys are playing. I think that speaks a lot about where their team is right now.”