Running Backs Key to Red Raiders' Success

In an offense that annually puts up some of the biggest numbers through the air in college football, people often overlook the Red Raiders' running game. But head coach Mike Leach emphatically stresses that the running backs are vital to the Air Raid offense being successful. In this feature, evaluates the running backs' individual and collective performances against EWU.

In Saturday's game against Eastern Washington University, running backs Shannon Woods, Baron Batch, and Aaron Crawford were able to contribute at key points in the game and help wrap up the victory.

Woods, who got the starting nod against the Eagles, came out looking like he had something to prove on Saturday night. After being demoted to the scout team for the second half of last season and much of the spring, he worked his way back into the starting line-up with a great showing in fall camp. Shannon finished the night with 2 scores.

At Monday's press conference, Coach Leach hinted that Woods' performance against EWU may have landed him a permanent spot in the starting line-up. "I thought he had a real good camp and good offseason," Leach stated. "What he did the other night, I thought he was a fairly polished guy. That's probably what he does better than the other two, just his overall game."

Quarterback Graham Harrell was impressed with Woods as well, stressing that his blocking ability is one area that he has an advantage over the other two running backs. "During camp he was really consistent, and that's what it's all about. In offense, a lot of times you have to block first and I think the running backs get overlooked a lot in this system and they deserve a lot of credit. He's been unselfish."

While he didn't put up big numbers on Saturday, Aaron Crawford had an explosive run for a touchdown that showcased his ability to hit the hole hard and overpower defenders. We expect to see Aaron on the field often this season and that he will continue building on last year's strong showing.

After struggling with injuries over the past couple of seasons, Baron Batch looks to be 100% healthy and had a career night against Eastern Washington with 40 yards rushing, 10 receiving, and averaging 8 yards per carry. He also found the endzone for his first touchdown at Texas Tech.

Overall, the running backs accounted for four of Texas Tech's seven touchdowns against the Eagles, a statistic that undoubtedly took some pressure off the of the receivers whom the EWU defenders were focused on containing.

As Graham Harrell noted, "They all three played well, they all bring something different to the table, and they will be a big part of the success for the season. It will be a good system if we can get them some carries. They all pose different threats to teams. It will be tough for teams to prepare for."

As the Red Raiders head to Nevada for their second game of the season, Coach Leach and his staff will be looking to Woods, Crawford, and Batch to continue their contributions on the ground.

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