November 5, 2011

Young RBs come through

For two players who before Monday were merely an afterthought in regards to Georgia's running back corps, Saturday afternoon's 63-16 victory over New Mexico State capped a week neither Brandon Harton nor Kyle Karempelis will ever forget.

But all that changed following Richard Samuel's ankle injury, followed by the news that Isaiah Crowell, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas were being suspended for "breaking team rules."

Suddenly, their dreams of being front and center for the Red and Black were about to become reality.

"At first I had no idea but Coach (Mark Richt) called me to his office for a meeting and he asked me if I knew what was about and I said no," Harton said. "Then he told me and my mind started racing, like what was I going to do, am I going to be ready? A bunch of things came to me but he told me that he had confidence in me, that he felt if I got there and did what I know how to do then everything was going to be all right."

It turns out Richt was right.

Harton carried 15 times for a team-high 98 yards, with Karempelis adding 13 carries for 63 yards. Both players also scored their first career touchdowns.

"The adrenalin was rushing pretty good there," Karempelis said. "I can't really describe it. I don't know how many guys go from scout team one week to doing this the next week and scoring a touchdown. I can't really describe it."

Making the moment even more special for the former Wesleyan star was the fact his good buddy and former high school teammate David Andrews was the Bulldog center during the 10-play, 93-yard drive which Karempelis capped with a 1-yard dive.

I didn't get to see what he did a lot of times when I was blocking for him or whatever but I did look up "Nothing's really changed about Kyle," Andrews said of his week leading up to the game. "He just worked. He got more reps obviously, but Kyle's a real soft-spoken person. He's just going to put his head down and work. I tried to tell him it was just like high school and he just gave me that little nod that he always does; he was ready."

Karempelis said it was just like old times.

"It was fun," Karempelis said. "In high school we had a touchdown celebration he would pick me up in the end zone so it was pretty neat that he was in there and we got to experience that high school celebration again."

Harton's day didn't get off to that good a start.

Georgia was driving for the game's first score early in the contest when Aaron Murray handed the ball to Harden who scooted through, only to fumble the ball into the end zone giving New Mexico State back the ball.

"Yeah, Harton spit it up and I think he was afraid to come on the sideline. But I hugged him, told him I loved him, go back and keep playing but it might have affected Karempelis," Richt said. "He looked like he was carrying the ball with two hands the rest of the way (laughing). Coach (Mike) Bobo was like you've got to give them the freedom to fumble or something because he's squeezing that ball so tight. But I thought they both did well. I hope they enjoyed the opportunity. I was proud of them."

Although announced as the starter at tailback, Branden Smith received that honor with Harton getting in on the Bulldogs' second play.

He never heard his name when it was announced over the stadium speakers.

"Really during pregame I wasn't even worried about any of that. I was just focused on the game and what I was supposed to do," Harton said. "If I had been paying attention, I guess it would have been great to hear my name called out as a starter but during pregame I was just focused on the little things I had to do to be successful."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]