It was no secret that the offense ran through junior running back Bobby Rainey at Nebraska on Saturday.
Coach Willie Taggart had said all through fall camp how important Rainey was. He also showed it by putting Rainey in a yellow jersey, meaning he couldn't be tackled, through the final couple of weeks of practice. Even Rainey though, was surprised at the 30 carries he got against the Huskers.
"I knew I was gonna have to carry over 15, but I didn't know it was gonna end up being 30," he said. "I didn't even know it was 30 because I wasn't tired or anything in the game. I just knew we were running the ball."
Rainey had a successful day with the ball, rushing for 155 yards and a touchdown, but it was hard not to wonder if this would be an every game occurrence. Rainey though, said that even though he hadn't taken any hits in a few weeks, it didn't affect him taking repeated poundings at Nebraska.
"You would think it would be, but it wasn't," he said. "The only thing, when I came out of that game, the only thing that was sore on me was my neck because of no contact. When you don't have contact for a long period of time and you start contact, the first thing that's gonna be sore is your neck. Other than that, I was fine with everything else. It's just my neck was sore. I'm fine, basically."
Taggart said at his media luncheon on Monday that Rainey's workload will be scaled back. But if so, where will the production come from? Senior fullback Rod Johnson was the only other running back to take a carry, with one for seven yards.
Junior running back Braxston Miller has been banged up for the last couple of weeks with PCL problems in his right knee. Redshirt freshman Keshawn Simpson has shown flashes but hasn't been consistent. Junior Avery Hibbitt also has ability, after moving from defense, but hasn't had many chances yet.
"We were actually ready last week, but Bobby's number got called and he performed really well, 150 yards against Nebraska is pretty good," Hibbitt said. "Coach Taggart came to me this week and he was kinda joking in the meeting, 'When are you gonna help your boy out with the ball?' I was like, 'Coach, whenever you put me in, I'm ready.'"
Much will also fall on sophomore Kawaun Jakes to step up his performance. He got off to a sluggish start, furthering the need for more of Rainey, before finishing the game with 120 yards on 12 of 22 passing. He had on interception that was off a deflection from his own receiver.
"Personally, I learned I can lead the team in the right direction," Jakes said. "I just came out slow, then it started to pick up. With them right behind me, I feel like I can lead them in the right direction."
Jakes also took a big time hit from Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick, which graced the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. But he got up rather quickly after catching his breath and didn't miss a snap.
"It felt pretty good," Jakes said. "I actually watched it like twice. I don't really like to see it. My teammates reminded me more about it. It woke me up. I'm gonna get back up. I'm a fighter."
Jakes distributed the ball, with eight receivers officially getting catches, but none more than the three that Rainey hauled in for a team-high 36 yards.
"We've got a lot of playmakers on the team, it's just the tables turned when we actually got in the game," Rainey said. "We got a few little different things and we had to adjust. It just so happened that we started running the ball a lot and it was working. As far as playmakers, we've got a lot. We have Willie McNeal at wide receiver, Quinterrance Cooper, Jack Doyle, Tristan Jones and possession receivers too."
But the question still remains if any will step up to relieve the burden on Rainey.
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