Mixing runs with the passes


Published: Sunday, September 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 1, 2002 at 1:15 a.m.

Despite being Florida's most effective running back in each of the last three seasons, Earnest Graham has learned the hard way about waiting for carries.

It's easy for a running back to feel forgotten in an offense where the first, second and third options usually involve throwing the ball deep. Even in the moments when Florida was up by 50 with a few ticks left on the clock, it would seem foolish to expect anything but a pass.

It still might. After all, Florida coach Ron Zook didn't snatch offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher away from Marshall because of the coach's mastery of the Wing-T or the Wishbone offense. The expectation is still to throw early and often.

But Saturday, for a few brief moments against an inept Alabama-Birmingham defense, the Florida offense had a sense of balance.

Graham didn't see the ball an overabundance of times, but rushed 13 times for a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns in Florida's 51-3 dismantling of of Alabama-Birmingham Saturday night at Florida Field.

"We've got a guy who can throw, a guy who can catch and a guy who can run," Florida coach Ron Zook said. "Earnest had a very good game."

Graham rushed for the first score of the Zook era when he went in from three yards out in the first quarter. He added a second touchdown in the second quarter on a 21-yard run.

Graham certainly caught the attention of the Alabama-Birmingham defense, which had little luck containing him throughout the entire game.

"I remember I tried to tackle him once and he just stepped over me," UAB defensive end James Malone said. "He was pretty impressive."

The other Florida backs weren't as effective as Graham, but three other Florida running backs were able to also get into the end zone.

Ran Carthon went in from two yards out in the second quarter. True freshman Ciatrick Fason scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter and often-injured Willie Green had a 1-yard touchdown for Florida's final score of the game.

"It was pretty great that they all got in," Zook said. "I think Ran switched up with Willie so he got the ball late in the game. After everything that Willie's been through, it was pretty special for him to get in."

"I don't see any weakness in them," UAB coach Watson Brown said. "They're going to be hard to defend because they are so two-dimensional."

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