When Isaiah Crowell sprinted through a pair of holes on the way to two game-changing touchdowns and a big win over Texas Southern on Oct. 6, every Alabama State fan figured the 2011 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year had arrived.
He was, by any admission, out of shape when he took the field on Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman, so it took a little while for Crowell to settle in as the Hornets’ new running back.
Too, he had to wait a couple of weeks for Alabama State to tweak its offense. The original concept of a zone-read attack just didn’t work, not in reality. After all, opposing defenses would just key on Crowell and take their chances with quarterback Greg Jenkins keeping the ball. After a few weeks, Jenkins had as many carries as his tailback.
Crowell’s been going in reverse in recent weeks, however, managing 64 yards against Jackson State, 60 against Alabama A&M and a paltry 6 (on 10 carries) against Prairie View last weekend.
His backup, Malcolm Cyrus, is going the other way, rushing for a career-high 58 yards against Alabama A&M, then a new career mark of 82 yards against Prairie View, averaging more yards per carry than Crowell.
So if you’re looking for a game-winning performance on Saturday at Southern, is it Crowell or Cyrus?
“We feel good about our running backs,” head coach Reggie Barlow said. “There are some plays we’d like to run with Isaiah in there and some sets we prefer Malcolm to be in there. In this last game, Malcolm was on, he was making the cuts we need him to make. Isaiah has been suffering from a wrist injury. That could be a challenge, so he hasn’t been as active as people would like him to be. He just has to stay the course. He’s so good and so talented, he wants every time he touches it to be ‘the play.’ He wants to make a big play and he gets a bit frustrated when he runs it and it’s no gain or a two-yard gain. He’s still an explosive guy and we still want to have that game where he touches it 25 times.
“This (last) game, Malcolm just had more reps than (Crowell).”