ATHENS, Ga. -- When Georgia sophomore tailback Richard Samuel raced 80 yards for a touchdown Sept. 19 at Arkansas, he was hoping that would ignite his season.
Samuel hasn't rushed for 80 yards combined in the three games since.
"It's been a little rough," he said this week. "It's been tough for all of us running backs. The reality is that we started this season with high hopes and have been hit hard, and it's caught us off guard. We just have to find ourselves and fight through this adversity."
The 6-foot-2, 222-pounder from Cartersville is penciled to start a seventh consecutive time Saturday when the Bulldogs (3-3, 2-2 SEC) visit Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3). His first three starts yielded 51 carries for 256 yards (5.0 per carry) and two touchdowns, but his last three have produced 20 for 61 (3.1) and no scores.
As a team, Georgia hasn't rushed for 100 yards since its win in Fayetteville and never reached the red zone in last week's 45-19 loss at Tennessee. The last time that happened for the Bulldogs was in a 34-3 loss at Clemson in 1990, a span of 232 games.
Georgia recovered a fumble at the Clemson 27-yard line that year, which led to a John Kasay field goal. The farthest the Bulldogs got last week was the Tennessee 34.
"Richard has got to help us," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I think Richard's deal is confidence. Coming into this year, we had a lot of expectations on him, and he kind of takes everything to heart when he doesn't have success, but we think he's a talented back who has to help us in the run game if we're to be successful.
"We're really trying to get him going this week."
Samuel's team-high 317 yards are followed by Caleb King's three-game tally of 121 yards on 30 carries. King missed the first two weeks because of a hamstring injury and is scheduled to play Saturday after missing last week with a concussion.
Freshman cornerback Branden Smith is third on the team with 80 yards on six carries, with 61 coming on a reverse Sept. 12 against South Carolina. He is followed by Carlton Thomas (55 on 13) and Washaun Ealey (51 on 18).
"No one really has made the offensive line look better than maybe they are blocking at times," head coach Mark Richt said. "We have pretty much been getting what we've been blocking for, which statistically hasn't been a whole heck of a lot."
Samuel believes his two biggest weaknesses to this point have been getting brought down too easily and not making anything happen when nothing is there. He had a season-best 104 yards at Arkansas, but his favorite game was a 15-carry, 65-yard performance against South Carolina because he broke some tackles.
Senior quarterback Joe Cox has faith that Samuel can still have a great year and is ready for him or any tailback to take charge.
"Every guy runs differently," Cox said. "I've never played offensive line, so I don't know if it has an effect on them, but it is tough. It's like rotating quarterbacks every two or three series. If you don't get in a rhythm, it's tough."
Odds and ends
Starting fullback Shaun Chapas is doubtful for Saturday because of a shoulder stinger. ... A bench warrant has been issued for leading tackler Rennie Curran for his failure to appear in Carnesville regarding a July speeding ticket, but Richt expects Curran to pay the fine before today's practice. ... Backup cornerback Vance Cuff has been suspended one game after being arrested Tuesday for riding his scooter down a street closed to construction and having a suspended license. ... There was a players-only meeting after Tuesday's practice, which Richt believes is a good sign.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...