Running Backs Face-Off in O-Town

Javon Ringer (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

It's New Year's Day and hope for the upcoming year springs eternal. Millions of people will vow to quit some of their unhealthy vices and try to exercise more, eat better, and be better people in 2009. By March, most of those promises will be a distant memory and we will be in the same position that we are now, just with less hope.

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio made somewhat of an early New Years resolution as he vowed to have a more physical, team-oriented unit in 2009—

"I believe in having a physical team; in being able to stop the run, harass the quarterback. I believe in having an unselfish team and unselfish coaches. We must get back to that. We'll come back with a lot of resolve. We must have a very strong offseason."

The Jaguars running game which finished the 2007 campaign ranked second in the NFL fell all the way to 18th in 2008. There were plenty of reasons for the lack of effectiveness of the unit, and many believe that veteran running back Fred Taylor may have played his last game as a Jaguar, as the soon to be 33-year old is due better than $5 million in 2009. Since most teams have made the shift to a two or more running back system, the Jaguars may decide to follow suit and draft a younger back to team up with the dynamic Maurice Jones-Drew.

Two fine running back prospects shared the same field at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando as Javon Ringer and the Michigan State Spartans took on Knowshon Moreno and the Georgia Bulldogs Thursday.

Javon Ringer has rushed for 1,590 yards this season and was named a Doak Walker finalist, but his 42-yard day in the regular season finale against Penn State has left him empty. Michigan State was playing for a share of the Big Ten title, but was soundly defeated by the team from Happy Valley, 49-18. Michigan State will have a second chance for some redemption in the Capital One Bowl against Georgia. A conference title is no longer a possibility, but a win against the preseason No. 1 team can assist in the recovery from two blowout losses to Ohio State and Penn State by a combined score of 94-25.

"I'm just not satisfied the way things ended, not satisfied at all," Ringer said. "That's why this bowl is so good. The perfect game for me would be something like 25 carries, 200 yards, three touchdowns and a victory. That's the way I want to go out." The Capital One Bowl features the two tailbacks who finished as runners-up to Iowa's Shonn Greene for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top tailback. Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno rushed for a combined 2,928 yards during the regular season and 37 touchdowns. Ringer had a streak this season of three consecutive games with more than 200 rushing yards, while Moreno led the SEC in yards and finished the season with five 100-yard performances in the last seven games.

Ringer's worst two performances came in games Michigan State lost. Likewise, Georgia lost all three games in which Moreno failed to reach 100 yards. A victory against Georgia would give the Spartans a 10-win season for the first time since 1999. "A 10-win season in college football is a huge accomplishment. You've really done something," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "It can turn a good season into an excellent season. And that's what we'd like to do."

Knowshon Moreno and his Georgia Bulldogs predictably got the best of Ringer and the Spartans on Thursday, 24-12. Both running backs looked great in spots, but both were the obvious focus of the opposing defenses, which slowed down their production. Moreno gained 62 yards on 23 rushing attempts, but showed his strength, quickness, and maneuverability on many runs. Moreno also showed great hands as he tied for the team lead in receptions with six for 63 yards, including the game sealing touchdown catch on a 21-yard wheel route.

Ringer fell far short of the 200 yards and three touchdowns he predicted, as the Georgia defense keyed on stopping him, and the Michigan State offense couldn't get much going through the air. Ringer finished with 47 yards on 20 carries, caught three balls for 30 yards, and scored the only touchdown of the game for Michigan State.

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