Football: Greg Howell excited to get back to ground-and-pound running style

The running back exploded for long runs early in the season, but is getting back to his gritty ways.

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Football: Greg Howell excited to get back to ground-and-pound running style

FAU junior running back Greg Howell Brandon Harrington | Staff Photographer

FAU junior running back Greg Howell Brandon Harrington | Staff Photographer

Brandon Harrington

FAU junior running back Greg Howell Brandon Harrington | Staff Photographer

Brandon Harrington

Brandon Harrington

FAU junior running back Greg Howell Brandon Harrington | Staff Photographer

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

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Junior running back Greg Howell took his first carry of the 2016 season 48 yards for a touchdown. Two carries later, he ran for a 37-yard touchdown.

Not typically known as a home-run hitter — Howell only recorded one 30-yard run in his first two seasons — the accounting major has taken a carry for at least 37 yards four times in the team’s first five games, and added another rush of 21 yards. However, his other 73 combined carries in those games accounted for the exact number of yards, 212, as those five explosive runs.

In last week’s game against Charlotte, Howell went back to his traditional ground-and-pound style of running the ball hard up the middle — which has him No. 2 nationally in fewest career yards loss on running plays, with a minimum of 200 carries — and recorded 100 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.

Putting constant pressure on the 49ers’ run defense, he took 10 of those carries for at least five yards and five carries for at least 10 yards.

“Early in the season I had a lot of out-of-the-gate long runs, but ground-and-pound, that’s my thing,” Howell said. “I was getting in my groove, catching my rhythm … it was one of my grind games where it was ‘up the middle, up the middle, up the middle, you’re going to have to stop me’ type games.”

Much of that ground-and-pound formula, and Howell’s ability to rarely gain negative yards, comes from hard, inside runs.

Offensive coordinator Travis Trickett tries to play toward Howell’s strengths in that way.

“Buddy runs the ball inside incredibly well, he can run the ball outside too but when the guy’s in there, you want to take advantage of a certain guy’s skill set,” Trickett said.

When the team is able to get its running game moving consistently like it did against Charlotte, while still moving at a high-tempo, it can wear out a defense and bring more success to the running game.

In the third quarter against Charlotte, Trickett called Howell’s number four times in a span of five plays. He responded by registering runs of 12, 4, 4 and 14 yards.

Redshirt junior offensive lineman Roman Fernandez sees first hand how the offense, when rolling, can affect the opposing defense.

“It’s kind of the blood’s in the water,” Fernandez said. “You got to be attacking. Once you see the defensive line putting their hands on their hips, slowing down, it’s your time to attack.”

Howell plans to continue the recent trend this Saturday against Marshall, but also can see Marshall’s scheme allowing him to repeat his home run capabilities that he showed earlier in the season.

Trickett said that the Thundering Herd loads the line of scrimmage, which can pave the way for long runs as the defense rarely has any players lined up deep.

“In the run game, they’re crowded up in there, so there’s pretty much one level of defense,” Trickett said. “If we can clear that first level, there’s yardage to be made, but they’re very good at what they do so it’ll be a good challenge for us.”

Howell is currently six yards away from surpassing teammate and senior Jay Warren for fifth on FAU’s all-time rushing list. He also is fifth in program history with 12 touchdowns.

“I feel like [Marshall] could be the same type of game [as Charlotte], ground-and-pound,” Howell said. “I feel like, like coach said, they’re all down, it’s all man. So once I break plain, I’m running, so just basically getting past the first level then it’s off to the races.”

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @feeney42.