- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Hours after Georgia’s heartbreaking 32-28 loss to Alabama in last year’s SEC championship game, running back Keith Marshall couldn’t shake the sick feeling in his stomach.
He’d been a part of devastating defeats before, but seeing his team literally be a few seconds -- and yards -- away from one of the program’s biggest wins crushed the freshman. After seeing everything he and his teammates went through to get to that moment, watching a batted ball decide the Bulldogs’ postseason fate was a killer.
But it only got worse a month later when he watched that same Alabama team crush a completely overmatched Notre Dame team in the Discover BCS National Championship.
“That hurt; I’m not gonna lie,” Marshall said. “I feel like we could have done the same thing. Everybody obviously watched the SEC championship -- that was the national championship. (The BCS title game) wasn’t even competition.”
What really shook Marshall was how dominant Alabama’s running game was against the Irish. Led by the dynamic duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, the Tide pounded away with 265 rushing yards.
With how well Georgia’s own rushing tandem of Marshall and Todd Gurley did in 2012, the two could only sulk when watching how easy Alabama’s backs had it.
“I was just looking and thinking that could have been us,” Gurley said. “We could have done the same thing.
“That might have hurt worse than losing (to Alabama in the SEC championship game), just to see how bad they did them and how bad they were running on them.”
And he’s probably right.
Gurley topped all SEC running backs with 1,385 rushing yards, while Marshall added another 759 yards in 2012. The two also combined for 25 rushing touchdowns.
Gurley did the smashing, while Marshall did more dashing. They complemented each other so well and never once complained about sharing the spotlight.
It’s an almost foreign concept to think about two players who stood alone as the stars of their high school teams being OK with sharing the limelight. It’s not hard to be selfish in this sport, but both say they embraced the idea of working together well before they even got on campus.
With Isaiah Crowell still on the roster while they were being recruited, they figured they’d have to take a backseat to him from the jump. But after he was dismissed from the team last summer, the pair took on the responsibility of being the feature backs.
Fresh out of high school and they were now running the show, and it was their unselfish nature that fueled their fire.
“I don’t think anybody wanted the spotlight to themselves,” Gurley said. “You have to share with somebody.”
For Marshall, he’s glad he and Gurley split time. Marshall carried the ball an average of eight times a game, while Gurley hovered around 15 carries. Sharing actually helped combat wear and tear.
“I probably wouldn’t have been as productive if I was getting 25 carries a game,” he said. “I think it’s the same for [Gurley].”
Instead of pouting, they pushed each other and became best of friends away from the field -- only making them stronger on it.
Either one could stand alone in just about any SEC backfield, but they prefer to work together.
They still compete with each other, but they strive for improvement more than anything.
“Obviously, you want to be the best in everything that you do. That’s just the part of being a competitive athlete, but I just try to do the best to my ability every day,” Marshall said. “I’m striving to be the best, but you just have to work as hard as you can. I’m not really focused on (Gurley). We’re competing, but we’re trying to help each other at the same time.”
51mDavid M. Hale