Ask any good running back what the most unheralded skill is at the position and the odds may be pretty good the answer will be pass protection. What truly separates the great running backs from the good running backs is a will to commit to pass protection when not being handed the football. It is something some players take great pride in once they work on the skill, and that is something Michigan running back Derrick Green is soaking in with preparation for the 2014 season.
“They know we can run the ball,” Green said last week during a summer episode of “Inside Michigan Football,” according to MLive.com. “But you’ve got to be able to block first, and run second. Protecting the quarterback is the main thing for us. Running the ball is secondary, pass protection is first.”
That is a good mindset for the Wolverines after allowing 36 sacks last season. Credit must be given to new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who is bringing a bit of a new attitude and philosophy to Michigan after serving as an assistant at Alabama the past two seasons. One of the big differences between Alabama and most of its opponents the last few years has been the ability of the offense to protect the quarterback. It is a philosophy that must be bought from all positions, not just the offensive linemen up front.
Michigan has a talented running back group with loads of potential, but for the Wolverines to truly take the next step as an offensive unit, the running backs must improve the pass blocking this fall.
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, most prognosticators had the SEC West coming down to either Alabama or Auburn. Five weeks into the season, neither of those teams sit at the top of the divisional heap.
With Kyle Allen triggering the offense and John Chavis orchestrating a virtuoso defensive performance, No. 14 Texas A&M had little trouble dispatching No. 21 Mississippi State in a 30-17 win that, for whatever reason, seemed much easier than the score makes it look. The 5-0 Aggies carried a 24-10 lead into halftime, and the 3-2 Bulldogs could only get as close as 10 points, 27-17, early in the fourth quarter on a Dak Prescott touchdown run.
As was the case in the first half, the true sophomore Allen was a big reason for the Aggies success.
Allen accounted for a career-high 385 yards of total offense, 322 passing and 63 rushing. The passing yardage is second only to the 358 he put up in last Saturday’s win over Arkansas, while the rushing yards are the most of his young career.
Tra Carson added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown to supplement the passing game.
The Bulldogs were able to move the ball in the second half — 233 yards in the last two quarters, compared to 173 in the first two — but could never mount much of a scoring threat outside of Prescott’s run that capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive. Prescott finished with more than 300 yards of offense, 210 passing and 96 rushing.
With the win. A&M moves to 2-0 in SEC play. LSU, also at 2-0, is the only other undefeated team in league play in the West. After a bye weekend, A&M will have its hands full the next two games as it hosts Alabama and travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss.
It is typically unwise to go overboard with reactions based on any one week of the college football schedule, but something learned on Saturday in the SEC is the No. 25 Florida Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) just might be the team to beat in the SEC East Division. The Gators were not in need of last-minute heroics the way they were a week ago. With No. 3 Ole Miss rolling into Gainesville, the Gators stomped and drowned the Rebels in The Swamp the way Florida teams of years past used to do their opponents, 38-10.
The offense was locked in. Quarterback Will Grier, flu and all, completed 24 of his 29 passing attempts for 271 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Kelvin Taylor picked up 83 yards on the ground and Demarcus Robinson had eight catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. The Gators offense played the game without a single turnover and they had the edge in time of possession.
The defense incredible. There was nothing Ole Miss could do about the outcome of the game because for the first time in years it was the Florida Gators setting the tone from the start and following through until the clock expired in the fourth quarter. By the time the Rebels reached the end zone, which they had done plenty of times leading up to this game, the Gators were already ahead 38-3 in the fourth quarter. Chad Kelly had 259 passing yards and a touchdown and he was also the leading rusher for Ole Miss with 40 yards. Turnovers doomed Ole Miss, with four turnovers leading to 20 points for the Gators.
Jim McElwain has Florida heading in the right direction, and it’s been a long time coming for the program. Now we will see if McElwain can keep this momentum going. Next week Florida visits Missouri, who has represented the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game each of the past two seasons. After that is the annual rivalry game with Georgia in Jacksonville. These next two weeks will help Florida prove itself as the new top threat in the SEC East. Right now, at this point in time, there should be no arguing that is the case after Missouri has lost to Kentucky and Georgia went down in flames at home against Alabama.
Florida may not be back as a national title contender, but they are certainly more than capable of making a run back to the top of the SEC East and getting back to Atlanta. This division is Florida’s to lose.
Ole Miss will get a chance to regroup and put up 60 points next week at home against New Mexico State before a road game at Memphis.