FOOTBALL: Ball State rushing attack loses its one-two punch

Running back Horactio Banks breaks away from the Kent State defensive line on Oct. 12. Banks has been declared out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury, forcing the offense to adapt. DN PHOTO JONATHAN MIKSANEK
Running back Horactio Banks breaks away from the Kent State defensive line on Oct. 12. Banks has been declared out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury, forcing the offense to adapt. DN PHOTO JONATHAN MIKSANEK

The one-two punch that has bruised opposing defenses has taken quite a beating itself throughout the 2013 season.

Junior running back Jawhan Edwards missed time early in the season after he suffered a concussion. Filling in for him over a two-game stretch was the quick, change-of-pace back sophomore Horactio Banks who tallied 192 yards on 28 carries.

When Banks missed a game to mourn the death of his childhood friend, Edwards carried the ball 18 times for 90 yards. The running backs have stepped up to fill in for one another throughout the season.

Prior to the team’s most recent game at Northern Illinois, Banks suffered what will be a season-ending knee injury. Offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky knows the offense will be OK without Banks, but it’d be at its best with him.

“It’s obviously a valuable part of the offense,” Skrosky said. “Jahwan is a big back, and he can carry the ball. He had 28 or 29 last week against [Northern Illinois] so we don’t worry about [the number of carries]. What we do miss is that great compliment.”

The duo has averaged 147 combined yards in games which they both played. In games without one of the two featured backs, Ball State has averaged 151 yards on the ground as a team.

Having both backs on the field together hasn’t been a necessity this season. That’s due largely to the presence of first-year running back Teddy Williamson.

The true freshman out of Missouri graduated high school a semester early. The extra time on campus shows in his maturity on the field, Skrosky said.

He’s carried the ball just 46 times this season. Though small in number, his carries have had a big impact. When Edwards was out against Army, Williamson rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries.

Two weeks later against Eastern Michigan he carried the ball 10 times for 28 yards. The spotlights were on in Ball State’s most recent game against Northern Illinois, just a few days after Banks suffered the knee injury.

“The running game right now, it’s just consistent,” Edwards said. “They’re asking to get three or four yards a carry, and that’s not too much to ask at this point.”

Ball State gained 170 yards on the ground against Northern Illinois in what Skrosky said might have been the team’s most “efficient” rushing game all season. Edwards said the team may lack explosiveness without Banks, but the ground-and-pound will be firing on cylinders.

Though Williamson ran the ball just once in that 27-48 loss, Skrosky said it was important to see him step up on a big stage. It’s likely that Williamson will receive more time on the field in Ball State’s final two games.

Having an entire season to prepare the jump to second-string running back, and becoming the leading rusher’s right-hand man, will pay off for the hard-working freshman.

“Teddy’s got a good work ethic,” Edwards said. “He wants to learn and he asks a lot of questions. He may not be physically ready, but I know he is mentally ready. He’s just got to run hard and do what he does well — not trying to run like me or Horactio.”

While the team may be lacking its one-two punch with Banks sidelined, Williamson is going to do his best to make sure the running game still packs a punch.

And Edwards is ready to take on an even bigger role as the team’s workhorse — he said there is no pressure at all on his shoulders.

“I don’t really call it pressure,” Edwards said. “Because pressure is something you aren’t ready for. I’m ready to get the ball as many times as I need to carry it.”

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