University of Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield (13) runs during the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, January 1, 2019 at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans. (Photo/Christina R. Matacotta, crmatacotta@gmail.com)

NEW ORLEANS — A key component to Georgia’s offensive identity throughout the 2018 season was the run game, particularly sophomore D’Andre Swift and junior Elijah Holyfield. 

In the final matchup of the season in the 2019 Sugar Bowl, neither Swift nor Holyfield could find their usual success in the run game. The Texas front seven and secondary’s ability to stop the run kept the pair subdued the Bulldogs. Swift tied for his lowest total rushing yards in a game this season with 12 yards, while Holyfield totaled 62 rushing yards. Tailback Brian Herrien also had 17 rushing yards of his own.

The lack of a run game added to Georgia’s inability to score rushing touchdowns, and factored into the Bulldogs loss to the Longhorns 28-21.

“They were very physical up front,” sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm said. “That's one obstacle you have to climb over. And the next thing they were slanting this way and that way, shooting multiple gaps. And we just had a tough time trying to figure out which way they're moving and trying to cut guys out of gaps. It was tough.”

Georgia was averaging about 260 rushing yards per game throughout the regular season. Against the Longhorns, the Bulldogs finished with 72 total rushing yards.


D'Andre Swift, a sophomore running back, walks off the field after the conclusion of the second half of the SEC championship between Alabama and Georgia on Saturday, December 1, 2018, at Mercedez Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs 35-28. (Photo/Christina R. Matacotta, crmatacotta@gmail.com)

Two fumbles, both from Swift, added to the struggles in the run game. Swift’s first fumble came at the end of the first quarter, and shortly followed by another during the second quarter. His second fumble was recovered by Georgia center Lamont Gaillard.

The first fumble came from a stripped ball. The second, Smart said was different.

“The second one, [Texas defensive back B.J. Foster] put his helmet right on that ball,” Smart said. “And that one, you almost say that was a weird hit. He spiked and hit him right on the ball. The ball shot out.”

Smart said one of the factors in the forced fumbles was Texas’ movement into the backfield. The Longhorns excelled at moving into the Bulldogs’ backfield quickly and with ease, something Georgia was not able to handle. The inability to handle the encroachment allowed Texas to try and cause the fumbles, he said. And the plan worked.

Yet, even with the struggle to run the ball, Holyfield reached a milestone for the 2018 season. His total of 62 rushing yards pushed him over 1,000 rushing yards for the season. Holyfield is the 15th Bulldog to reach a 1,000-yard season, and joins Swift in this club. Swift broke 1,000 rushing yards for the season during the SEC championship game.


University of Georgia running back Brian Herrien (35) celebrates a touchdown during the 85th edition of the Allstate Sugarbowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. The Longhorns led over the Bulldogs at the half 20-7. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

The running backs contributed more in the passing game than the running game. Herrien caught a 17-yard pass for a touchdown to give Georgia its first points of the game in the second quarter.

“I guess that play gave us the spark that we needed, and then after that I guess we didn’t capitalize on the plays that we needed to capitalize on,” Herrien said.

Swift added a 5-yard touchdown from Fromm with less than 15 seconds in the fourth quarter to give Georgia its last points of the game. But the earlier lack of success in the run and passing games kept Swift’s touchdown from being enough to win the game. Georgia’s inability to start strong in the run game left its mark on the result of the game.

“I mean just all over as an offense, we wasn’t clicking on all cylinders,” senior wide receiver Terry Godwin said. “Running game we couldn’t get anything started, passing game we couldn’t get anything started. So when you cant get neither of those started, it’s hard to focus on one to get that one started.”

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