ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall each rushed for more than 100 yards in last Saturday's 56-20 win over Florida Atlantic, but that isn't the first thing they've done in tandem.
The touted prospects from North Carolina committed to the Bulldogs last winter in similar fashion. Gurley and Marshall made separate calls to Bulldogs running backs coach Bryan McClendon, informed him they appreciated his interest but that there were better options elsewhere, and then admitted they were just joking.
"They pulled the same trick on me, and I fell for it twice," a smiling McClendon said.
Georgia was more than willing to tolerate those pranks, with Gurley now averaging 9.9 yards a carry and Marshall 5.7 a rush. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Gurley has 276 rushing yards through three games, which ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference, and had a 55-yard run against Buffalo, a 44-yarder at Missouri and a 38-yarder against FAU.
The 5-11, 216-pound Marshall has 182 yards to rank 15th in the league, and his 104 yards last week against the Owls included a 28-yard pickup.
"They've been running extremely hard, and it's good to get explosive plays in the running game," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We had a lot of 10- and 15-yard runs last year. This year, we're getting a lot of 25- and 35-yard runs, and I think that's just a credit to the guys blocking at the line of scrimmage and the backs making plays in the open field."
Gurley and Marshall became Georgia's first freshman tailbacks to run for 100 yards in the same game since Danny Ware and Thomas Brown in 2004, but they insist that was never a goal. The two developed a friendship attending high school track meets throughout the Tar Heel State, with Gurley excelling in hurdles and Marshall in sprints.
"We really didn't talk about going over 100," Gurley said. "We just thought it would be cool for us to play together and back each other up for yardage and when we tired and everything like that."
Said Marshall: "We came here wanting to be good players. We have a long way to go, but this is exciting."
Redshirt sophomore tailback Ken Malcome started the opener but has been replaced the past two weeks by Gurley, who had 100 yards on eight carries and a 100-yard kickoff return in his first game. Malcome has 111 yards and is averaging 5.6 yards a carry, and Marshall holds the single-game high so far in carries with 12 against Missouri.
Head coach Mark Richt likes how the three-back rotation is going right now and certainly appreciates the impact the freshmen have provided.
"It was probably more of what they envisioned," Richt said. "They are good friends, and they wanted to play together and complement each other with their ability. They're roommates. They're probably thinking their plan is going pretty good so far."
Georgia's average of 222.7 rushing yards a game is its highest in 20 seasons, and the Bulldogs are averaging 295 yards a game through the air, their best such average in 18 seasons.
"That's the way it should be every week," said Gurley, who leads the SEC with 514 all-purpose yards. "If we can continue to do this, we'll be unstoppable."
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 ...