Over the past two years, not too many teams have been able to line up, show the run and execute accordingly against Georgia.
Last season, Kentucky was one of the few teams to do so.
A lot of it had to do with running back Benny Snell, who was a load for the Bulldogs to bring down. Whether it was between the tackles or on the edge, Snell seemingly drove through defenders for an extra couple of yards on almost each of his carries. He would turn plays of no gain into 3- or 4-yard pick-ups. He finished the night, which was a 27-24 Georgia victory, with 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Snell has been quite the handful for defenses during his sophomore season, which has him sitting second on the SEC leaderboard with 1,013 rushing yards. He is tied for first in the conference with 15 touchdowns. Snell has been on a roll lately, totaling 472 yards and nine touchdowns in his past three games.
With Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson totaling 32 carries for 167 yards in the Tigers’ 40-17 win over Georgia, head coach Kirby Smart expressed some concern for how his team will defend Snell.
“He’s just as good as Kerryon,” Smart said. “He runs the ball really hard. He’s really physical. He gets his pads down. He’s a good back and they are committed to the run. We have to strike, we have to keep edges, we have to tackle well. We have to fit things. We have to play better.”
Snell does have a similar running style to Johnson, with the two backs displaying patience in the backfield as the blocks set up in front of them. From there, it’s finding the right hole to hit and exploding through it. Up until the Auburn game, the Bulldogs had been excellent in defending the run.
Georgia would like to find its footing again in this department, although the looming challenge of facing Snell could make it tough. Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter remembered how physical last year’s game between Georgia and Kentucky was, with a lot of it having to do with Snell’s preferred running style.
“He’s a young guy who is powerful,” Carter said. “He’s always going to give a second effort. He’s going to try to get extra yards falling forward. We just have to come in and play physical, and don’t let him get too many extra yards after contact, and gang tackle, swarm to the ball.”
Given the success Snell had out of the wildcat formation, combined with what Johnson did against the Bulldogs a week ago, Georgia’s defenders are expecting the Kentucky runner to attack them in the same manner.
“Every team that has success on another team will try to do the same thing, too,” defensive tackle John Atkins said.
Georgia is entering Saturday’s game against Kentucky looking to rebound from a poor performance against the run by stopping one of the conference’s best backs. The defense is prepared for what is expected to be a bruising battle when Kentucky has the ball.
“Our kids talked last year about that was the most physical game they played in from a defensive standpoint because it was so much grinding and hitting,” Smart said. “They pride themselves on that, so it will be a great challenge for us. When we did not stop the run real well last week, we are getting an opportunity this week to play a team that is hell-bent on running the ball.”