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Texas Tech v. Virginia: Running Backs

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This is a series of positional reviews for the matchup between Texas Tech and Virginia at 12:00 p.m. on January 1, 2008 in the Gator Bowl, Jacksonville Florida.

Prior Previews:

  • Quarterbacks
  • Running Backs
  • Offensive Line
  • Defensive Line
  • Linebackers
  • Secondary
  • Special Teams
  • Coaching
  • Intangibles

Running Backs: Texas Tech fans can tell themselves that rushing really doesn't matter, but in matching up running backs to running backs, it may not be much of a comparison.

Texas Tech Ht/Wt Att Att/Gm Gain Loss Net TD Rec Yds TD
Shannon Woods, #2 5-11/191 84 9.33 450 11 439 8 34 138 2
Aaron Crawford, #32 5-11/202 46 6.57 196 11 185 3 30 218 2
Kobey Lewis, #21 5-5/173 42 3.50 175 19 156 2 22 167 0

Where to begin. Things started off so well for Shannon Woods. There was nothing spectacular about his numbers in the first 6 games. Woods had done what was asked of him, which was keep the defense honest. Woods averaged over 4 yards a carry for each of those games, including a whopping 8.33 yards a carry against Rice and 9.00 yards a carry against Iowa State. Granted, those were limited carries, but Woods was effective at what he did.

In addition, Woods was okay receiving the ball out of the backfield, but nothing spectacular. Woods' best receiving day was against Texas A&M where he had 33 yards on 5 catches and 32 yards against Oklahoma State, also on 5 catches. Only 2 touchdowns receiving for the entire year.

In fact Woods' work was vital to a victory over Texas A&M, with 93 yards rushing on 21 attempts. The Aggies dared Coach Leach & Co. to run and Woods did, early and often.

But things changed after the Missouri game. Woods had 10 carries for only 30 yards against a good Missouri defense that had Texas Tech's number and he hasn't had a carry since.

Now enter Aaron Crawford. Crawford saw his first action of the year against Rice where he had 28 yards rushing and some mop-up duty against Northwestern State.

Crawford started the Colorado game, only had 2 carries and the rushing game was noticeably absent from the game-plan in general. Things changed against Baylor, where Crawford was a much bigger part of the offense, with 9 carries for 44 yards and 2 touchdowns, to go along with his 10 catches for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns receiving. An absolute banner game for the true freshman.

A quiet day against the Longhorns (11 yards total) would lead to an incredible day against the Sooners where Crawford was spectacular. In 12 carries, Crawford had 47 yards and a touchdown as well as 11 receptions and 81 yards receiving. It wasn't so much the production, although that was nice, it was how hard Crawford was running. At that point I was pretty sure I understood the difference between Woods' production and Crawford's.

Kobey Lewis is a nice change-of-pace back, but his time has been very much hit or miss throughout the season. Lewis can have games where he's very effective (SMU, UTEP, and Rice) and other games where he barely makes an impression (OSU, NW St., Iowa St., Colorado). Not necessarily blaming Lewis, as the same type of opportunities just aren't there. Typically, Lewis just doesn't get the ball enough to be a difference maker.

Virginia Ht/Wt Att Att/Gm Gain Loss Net TD Rec Yds TD
Cedric Peerman, #21 5-10/205 113 18.83 620 35 585 5 12 99 0
Mikell Simpson, #5 6-1/197 93 8.45 435 35 400 7 38 366 1
Keith Payne, #32 6-3/243 58 7.25 235 16 219 2 5 45 0

Interestingly, and somewhat similar to Texas Tech's situation, Cedric Peerman led the team in rushing for the first 7 games of the year, after an injury to his right foot, Mikell Simpson took over. I believe that at the time, Peerman was leading the team and conference in rushing had some pretty big games before being knocked out with this injury. A huge game against North Carolina (186) and over 100 yards against North Carolina (137) and Georgia Tech (144). It appears that this injury occurred against Middle Tennessee State and that was the last that Virginia saw of Peerman on the field.

Mikell Simpson picked up against Maryland with a 119 yard and 2 touchdown effort. Simpson saw a bulk of the carries for the remainder of the season and had decent days against NC State, Miami and Virginia Tech, but was really stopped against Wake Forest where Simpson only managed 35 yards on 16 carries.

Out of the backfield, Simpson is more than capable of catching the ball where he also managed to grab 13 passes for 152 yards. Simpson was a little more quiet, but still averaged almost 7 receptions a game, so that's certainly something to watch. He only scored 1 touchdown, so perhaps not much of a threat to score, but he's certainly a favorite target of Sewell.

Keith Payne filled in nicely for Peerman and before Simpson saw the bulk of the carries. Payne carried the load the rest of the way against Middle Tennessee State with 70 yards of 18 carries and had decent games against Connecticut and Maryland, but only 1 rushing touchdown in the 3 games where he saw action.

Conclusion: There's not much discussion here. Virginia, despite being only ranked 93rd in the nation in rushing, it's still not last amongst Division I teams (i.e. Texas Tech). Yes, Virginia runs the ball more, and an argument could be made that Texas Tech is more efficient, but we are not (Texas Tech 3.26 to Virginia's 3.42 in yards per attempt). I will say this, Virginia seemed to be more effective earlier in the year with Peerman (5.18 yds/att), but Simpson (4.30 yds/att) has done a pretty good job.

I think, and I believe that a number of Texas Tech fans feel the same way, Crawford has got something. He runs hard, catches the ball out of the backfield and punishes defenders. That's something that Texas Tech hasn't had in quite some time and it's nice to see.

Once again, Virginia isn't good running the ball, but they aren't the worst.

Matchup
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QB
RB