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Predictable is just fine with Jacksonville State head coach Rich Rodriguez when it comes to his team’s offense.
Need proof? How about the final 12 minutes of Saturday’s ASUN win over North Alabama?
“We ran the same play, the last 16 plays of the game Saturday,” Rodriguez said. “Over 40-some of the 70-some plays was the same play. It might have been a different formation with different tempos but there wasn’t no secret what we were doing.”
It worked. Jacksonville used a 55-yard drive that took six minutes and 18 seconds off the clock and ended with a 38-yard field goal by Alen Karajic. They followed with two short drives – again running the ball on the same play – that finished with field goal attempts. Karajic missed the first attempt from 50 yards and hit a 29-yarder to close the scoring in the 47-31 win.
“That (play) was killing the clock and getting first downs,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t have to do variety for just the sake of doing variety. It’s like someone said, You have an overwhelming tendency to run this play out of this formation. That’s a good thing if you have a tendency, because you’re not going to run it if you’re not having success. Right? But, they can do things to outnumber you and force you to do something else. That’s when you have to have the ability to execute (something else) to answer the problem. I do think we do have the ability to execute to answer the problem and we’re going to have to show it going forward.”
The bread and butter for the Gamecocks offense, though, is running the football. And they’ve done that very well this season. The Gamecocks are 4th nationally in FCS with 256.1 rushing yards per game and have an FCS-best 24 rushing touchdowns.
Four running backs are sharing the rushing load, beginning with Anwar Lewis (87 carries for 624 yards with seven touchdowns) and Matt LaRoche (73 carries for 430 yards with three touchdowns). Ron Wiggins (27 carries for 229 with a touchdown) and Pat Jackson (23 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns) add depth.
But, it also includes the mindset of getting the quarterback involved. That’s a smart move when an offense has a quarterback like Zion Webb. The fifth-year senior has 58 carries for 302 yards with a team-high 10 rushing touchdowns.
“The other part of our running game is we’re going to play with 11 and maybe not run the quarterback a bunch of times but the threat of it is always going to be there,” Rodriguez said. “Any time we have any run, most of the time the quarterback is involved in that particular play or he’s reading something. I call it playing with 11.”
Rodriguez said the game day play sheet is “NFL size” with 150 plays on it.
“We use like 10 of them, there’s a lot of wasted ink on that deal,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t rep all 150 during the week but we rep a lot of them. I got to keep reminding myself that this is still the first year in the system. Some guys grow up in the system and it becomes year 2, year 3 and you’re able to do more. They understand (the) why. I want our players, when a play is called, this is why we’re running it, not only how we’re running it but this is why we’re running it and that’s a process.”
For now, that process includes a heavy dose of running the football and that’s a good thing.
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