Freshman RB duo continues 'absurd' play

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
11:00
PM ET
ATHENS, Ga. -- By this point, it’s hard to even be surprised by the regular highlight-reel performances of Georgia’s freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

Both players rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game for the second time in three weeks -- no UGA freshman tailback tandem had done it once since 2004 -- combining for 294 yards and five touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 51-44 win against Tennessee on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeKeith Marshall
Jeff Vest/Icon SMIFreshman running back Keith Marshall ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries in Georgia's victory over Tennessee.
“It’s gotten to a point that when they run, I don’t expect them to get tackled,” Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch joked.

The freshmen were the driving force in Georgia jumping out to a 27-10 lead over the Volunteers, scoring the Bulldogs’ first four touchdowns -- including a 75-yard Marshall scoring run and a 51-yard burst by Gurley.

Even when both players committed their first big errors -- Gurley botched a kickoff return that left Georgia with field position at its own 1-yard line and Marshall lost a fumble at the Georgia 18 that directly led to a Tennessee touchdown -- their teammates rallied around the freshmen and helped restore their confidence.

“I don’t want to let the team down in any situation and I put a lot of pressure on myself after that,” said Marshall, who rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries. “A lot of the older guys came over to me after that and patted me on the back and the coaches said to worry about the next play.”

The veterans’ patience certainly seemed to pay off. Marshall contributed his second touchdown run of the night -- a 72-yard burst -- late in the third quarter, giving the Bulldogs a valuable two-touchdown lead.

And Gurley is one of the first players to celebrate with his backfield mate (and roommate) once he reaches the sideline after such a run.

“I’m happy just to be able to see him out there running,” Gurley said. “I’m jumping to the sidelines just to congratulate him and tell him good job.”

Gurley didn’t have the same explosive runs in the second half, but he helped the Bulldogs grind out the win in a completely different way after the break, rushing 13 times for 39 tough yards. He finished with a season-high 24 carries for 130 yards and three TDs.

The two backs are quickly becoming not only the best backs on Georgia’s roster, but also in the SEC.

Gurley was already leading the league in rushing and scoring before Saturday’s game. Now he’s up to 536 rushing yards -- an average of 107.2 yards per game -- and 10 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Marshall will surely move up in the league rankings after Saturday’s outburst. He is up to 428 rushing yards -- 85.6 per game -- and five touchdowns this season.

And hardly anyone on Georgia’s roster is surprised by what they are accomplishing anymore.

“I feel like they’ve got more in the tank,” said receiver Michael Bennett, who caught two touchdown passes in the third quarter. “They’re great, amazing running backs. Either one of them can start on any team in the nation I believe, and to have them both on our team and make the plays that they do, more good is to come.”

The Bulldogs certainly hope Bennett is correct, although Gurley and Marshall are already entering uncharted territory for a freshman tailback tandem at Georgia.

“These kids are 18 years old,” Lynch reminds us. “It’s a little bit absurd, in a good way. But I’m not really complaining about it.”

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