ATHENS — There has been a lot to complain about in Isaiah Crowell’s first season with the Bulldogs. The freshman tailback has been suspended twice for disciplinary reasons, has had some fumbling issues and has frustrated many with his inability to remain in games. But as Georgia prepares to face Kentucky in a game that could clinch the SEC East on Saturday, it is evident that Crowell is also pretty darn good at what he does on the football field.
Crowell (5-foot-11, 215 pounds) is on pace to become the Bulldogs’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Knowshon Moreno had, 1,400 yards in 2008. With 821 yards rushing, he has already surpassed Washaun Ealey’s production from a year ago (811). He is currently third in the SEC with an average of 91.2 yards per contest.
Getting to the 1,000-yard mark is something Crowell is determined to do.
“I want to get over 1,000 pretty bad,” said Crowell, who would be the only Bulldog other than Herschel Walker to do it as a true freshman. “My goal was to be a freshman All-American. I don’t know if that’s going to happen or whatever, but I definitely want to get a thousand. That was my goal at the beginning of the season and I want to be able to reach my goal.”
If the Bulldogs can keep him on the field, it’s likely Crowell will do that and then some. He’ll have four more chances to do so if Georgia can get past Kentucky this Saturday. If he averages 71 yards rushing in those games, he’ll move past Frank Sinkwich (1,103 yards in 1941) into Georgia’s top 10 for rushing yards in a season. An average of 145 yards moves him past Moreno (1,400, ‘08) into the top five of all time.
To run down any such marks, Crowell must prove more resilient than he has been the last half of the season. After recording 104 yards on 22 carries against Mississippi State on Oct. 1, Crowell has averaged 58 yards on 15 carries in the three games he played before Auburn last week. He had 17 carries in the second half alone and finished with 132 yards on 24 attempts as Georgia salted away victory last Saturday.
But once again, Crowell spent a significant period of time on the sideline when he got dinged up in the first half against Auburn. He hobbled out of the game at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter and didn’t play the rest of the half. Coach Mark Richt said this week Crowell is dealing with a minor knee injury.
Crowell’s penchant for coming out of games has called into question his durability and toughness. So far this season he has dealt with rib, wrist, elbow, thigh, knee and ankle injuries. None of them have been serious enough to keep him out of practices or games, however.
“I have always stayed pretty healthy,” said Crowell, who came to Georgia as the No. 1-rated running back prospect in America. “I’ve had, you know, small stuff, but it wasn’t back-to-back like this. … Something hurts all the time, but I’m getting used to it. It’s mostly aches and bruises.”
Crowell said Georgia’s coaches give him the option of removing himself from games, which he has done quite often. “I just wave and make sure Coach McClendon sees me,” he said.
“If I’m gassed or I’m hurt I want to come out because I want to be able to give 100 percent for my team,” Crowell explained. “If I’m not able to do my best I’d rather somebody else come in and do their best. When I get ready and think I can do my best then I’ll go back.”
Nonetheless, Crowell insisted he’s in good shape and that conditioning is not an issue. At this point in the season, he said he feels stronger than he has all year.
“I think I’m good and conditioned,” he said. “Doing it the whole season has helped me a lot. In practice they make me stay in a lot and do multiple plays and I think that has helped.”
Crowell’s 24 carries against Auburn were his most since getting 30 against Ole Miss on Spet. 24.
“It’s all about preparation during the week,” he said. “Me and Carlton did a lot during that week we were out and I think we both did well. I think my legs were fresh. You just have to be prepared to work during the week so I can be ready for the game.”
Of course, Crowell would be closer to 1,000 if not past it already had he not missed five quarters of play for disciplinary reasons. The suspensions coupled with Georgia’s SEC championship pursuits seem to have reinvigorated Crowell.
“Our team worked hard for this,” he said. “There were a lot of negative things people were saying at the beginning of the season. I think we got through it, we ignored the noise and, you know, just kept pushing and fighting and kept working hard. Now that people are saying positive things we’ve still got to ignore the noise. When we were doing bad everybody was on our back about that, now they’re on our back about doing good. That’s just how people are. So you have to ignore it and keep working hard.”
If Crowell can stay the course, major accomplishments could await.