Justin Crawford has received a bulk of the carries for the WVU football team in the past two seasons.
The talented running back was a legend in junior college and the star power of Justin Crawford continues to grow with the Mountaineers. Crawford adds a new dimension to the offense.
Even in a pass-happy environment, Crawford’s strong running ability presents an enjoyable challenge for WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. He must dictate how much Crawford is to get the ball.
It would be nice to have Crawford carry as many times as possible, but that’s not realistic. It’s especially not realistic when the Mountaineers are blessed to have backups Kennedy McKoy, Tevin Bush and Martell Pettaway who are strong competitors.
It’s even tougher to balance the offense with Crawford because of the fact that Will Grier is emerging as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12, and in the entire country. He will get more opportunities to throw the ball deep to players like Gary Jennings, David Sills and Marcus Simms.
Crawford hasn’t had more than 15 carries in a game this season. He had 15 in both of the victories in the past two weeks. Against East Carolina, he finished with 118 yards, two touchdowns and a long run of 41 yards. He followed that up with a 102-yard performance against Delaware State, with three touchdowns and a long run of 21 yards.
In the opening loss to Virginia Tech, Crawford had 106 yards and a long of 42, without a touchdown, on 13 carries. So, in every game Crawford reaches the end zone, the Mountaineers pull off a victory.
That was also the case last year. Justin Crawford was a new player on the scene for the 2016 season. He finished the year with four rushing touchdowns — against Missouri, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Kansas. All four games were WVU wins.
Crawford saw his carries raise and lower throughout the season. He had 21 on his first game as a Mountaineer, at home against Missouri. The most carries he received in a game last season was 28 in a 24-21 win over Baylor.
It’s unlikely Justin Crawford will get 28 carries this season. It’s because of the nature of how Holgorsen and the WVU football team administer things, but it also happens to be the nature of today’s college football world.
Holgorsen addressed this topic at his weekly press conference via WVUsports.com.
"I’ve said the days of 28-carry backs are done and then you give it to Crawford 28 times and he goes for 200, 300 yards against Baylor and Oklahoma. He can handle that, the danger in that is what his body is going to be like the next week and the next week…That’s just something we gauge. We chart how many times each of these guys have touched the ball, how many snaps they play in a game."
The only two times Crawford has eclipsed the 200-yard mark in his time at West Virginia are those two games Holgorsen mentioned. He ran 28 times for 209 yards in the win against Baylor. He ran 24 times for his career high of 331 yards in a loss against Oklahoma.
Crawford’s big games had a low output sandwiched in the middle as he only gained 29 yards in a win against Iowa State. He was banged up in that game, though, so Holgorsen’s concerns about limiting his carries are warranted.
A healthy Justin Crawford will equate to great positives for the Mountaineers throughout the season. One way to help make sure he stays healthy is limiting his carries, which Holgorsen intends to do.