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Slowing down UGA Rushing attack

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Can Auburn slow down Georgia’s SEC-leading rushing attack?

Updated Nov 7, 9:10 PM; Posted 7:00 AM

D'Andre Swift (7) is one part of Georgia's two-headed rushing attack, which leads the SEC in rushing yards per game this season. (Streeter Lecka)


By Tom Green |

Dontavius Russell looks at Georgia on film and he sees more of the same.

Gone are star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are now in the NFL, but the Bulldogs still feature a talented one-two punch out of the backfield heading into Saturday’s installment of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

“They’ve got good running backs,” said Russell, Auburn’s four-year starter at defensive tackle. “Their running backs run hard, and they’re pretty good. They’ve got the same caliber running backs as last year, even though the other two aren’t back. (D’Andre) Swift and (Elijah) Holyfiend kind of resemble the backs they’ve had in the past. It’s always a challenge.”

This Saturday, when No. 24 Auburn (6-3, 3-3 SEC) travels to Sanford Stadium to take on No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1) at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN, that will be the biggest challenge for the Tigers — trying to bottle up the Bulldogs’ SEC-leading rushing attack.

Georgia enters the game first in the SEC and 17th national in rushing offense, averaging 233.78 yards per game on the ground. That rushing attack is led by Holyfield and Swift, both of whom have more than 600 rushing yards apiece this season while combining for 1,296 yards and 12 touchdowns and ranking in the top 10 of the SEC in rushing.

“I look at them offensively, they lead our league in rushing,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They know how to run the football. They’ve got a good offensive line with some good backs."

Holyfield is the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 674 rushing yards and is coming off his best game of the season, a 115-yard effort in Georgia’s SEC East-clinching win against Kentucky last weekend. Swift — who rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown against Auburn in last year’s SEC Championship Game — isn’t far behind with 622 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also coming off his best game of the season after rushing for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats, marking the second straight game he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground.

Slowing down that duo will be no easy task for an Auburn defense that, at times, has struggled against the run in SEC play. Last month, Mississippi State—led by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald—gashed Auburn for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground, and then last week, Texas A&M rushed for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the legs of a strong performance from running back Trayveon Williams, who had 107 yards and both scores on 17 carries.

“I feel really good about our defensive line,” Malzahn said. “Give Texas A&M credit, they had a little wrinkle scheme that got us on a cutback twice that was part of it. Our rush defense I feel good about. We are going to have to play well against these guys, there’s no doubt. Like I said earlier, we know them well and they know us well. So, we’ll see what happens.”

Auburn’s defensive front, which has seen big-time performances of late from several of its contributors — including Russell, Derrick Brown, Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson — will have its hands full against Georgia’s offensive line. The Bulldogs are allowing the second-fewest tackles for loss in the SEC with 37, which ranks 10th in the nation, while paving the way for a run game that averages 5.76 yards per carry — a mark that ranks 13th among FBS teams.

Auburn, though, leads the SEC and is fourth nationally with 78 tackles behind the line of scrimmage while rankings 34th nationally against the run. The Tigers would like to see those numbers further improve against the Bulldogs as they try to shut down the league’s best rushing attack.

“You kind of got to approach every game the same regardless,” Russell said. “You can't really go into the game thinking they haven't allowed something, so you can't do it. You've got to approach it like it's just another game that you've got to go play and focus on what you can do throughout the week to get yourself the best to play against the opponent.”

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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In spots, yes we can slow it down. We will not be able to stop it. We must hope that they turn the ball over. 

Edited by gr82b4au

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