OXFORD, Miss. - Considering his previous high for rushes was 16, the 30-carry, 147-yard effort freshman Isaiah Crowell put in during Saturday's 27-13 win over Ole Miss certainly came as an unexpected surprise.
Head coach Mark Richt never would have believed it.
"I never would have dreamed Isaiah would have had 30 carries but when you have 82 plays and run the tailback as much as we do in our system
," Richt said. "I thought he did a really nice job of securing the ball, getting tough yards and making good decisions as a runner."
But it wasn't easy for Crowell, who had to sit out parts of the previous two games after taking back-to-back shots to the ribs . His 30-carry effort pushed him in an entirely different way against the Rebels.
"My wind was all right," said Crowell, who recalled carrying the football as many as 30 times once in high school career. "The whole game, 30 carries, you get tired a little bit. But it was all right."
He might have carried it even more if the Bulldogs had not leaned primarily on Richard Samuel (10-42) and Carlton Thomas (5-37) for much of the third quarter.
Still, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo liked what he saw.
"He's a patient runner. He does a nice job when he sees it and he's got a burst. I think it's good for him to get those carries," Bobo said. "He's got to continue to get in shape and get stronger as the game goes on, but I feel confident in Richard and Carlton. They made some nice runs and catching the ball out of the backfield."
Bobo said keeping a fresh back as much as possible certainly has its advantages.
"We want to keep a fresh back in there," Bobo said. "Our guys were clicking well up front and creating space. I'd rather not have a guy to be tired and not see the hole."
Neither would Richt.
"I'm not looking for him to get 30 carries every time. I'd love for him to be somewhere around the 20 range, maybe catch three or four balls," Richt said. "If he gets 25 touches, it's a good thing to shoot for so we've maybe got to do a better job of keeping track of that."
Although Crowell didn't score a touchdown, one can argue he made the game's biggest play when he took what looked like a routine handoff on a third-and-9 call from the Georgia 2 and turned it into a 29-yard gain.
The Bulldogs went on to complete the 99-yard drive, scoring on a 2-yard pass from Aaron Murray to Orson Charles.
"They just called my number and I just did the best I could," shrugged Crowell, who after the play popped up along the Bulldog sideline, pumping his fist in the air.
"It was probably the biggest play of the game at that point," Richt said. "We did a lot of - not that particular play because we kind of blind-called that one - but there was a lot of time in third and medium, third and long that we came to the line of scrimmage, went into our cadence to see what they were doing.
"It was kind of feast or famine. They were going to be in a two-shell or two-deep look pressuring you. If you guess wrong it's good, if you guess wrong it's bad."
With Crowell running, it was mostly good.
For the season, Crowell has 77 carries for 411 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per rush.
"I'm just feeling more comfortable," Crowell said. "That's exactly how it is."
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]