PARKERSBURG, W.Va. - The seamless way in which George Washington has filled the absence of injured senior Draven Riffe without a dropoff in the Patriots running game has involved more than sliding receiver Jacob Jackson to running back.
Jackson has carried 63 times for 636 yards and eight touchdowns in two games since Riffe suffered an ankle sprain late in the Patriots' 60-54 win over Hurricane on Oct. 11. Jackson, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior, ran for 386 yards on 31 carries in a 53-17 GW (6-2) win at Parkesburg (2-6) on Friday night.
A yard is a yard by any measurement, but GW quarterback Jon Alexander regularly turns and hands off to Riffe who bulldozes into the line of scrimmage helping to bore a hole for himself. The process for Jackson is more reminiscent of the Patriots' offense in the past two seasons, when the former quarterback Trevor Bell handed off to Ryan Switzer on draw plays more frequently.
"We're trying to open things up," Jackson said of the increased use of a draw play. "The defense can be up on the run so we have to do that to open up the passing game a little bit. We can pass off that as well.
"We've been putting some draws in to make the defense stay on its toes a tiny bit," Jackson said.
Jackson's reliance on keen field vision works with the draw's effect of allowing a play to develop slighltly before a running back gets the ball. By the time he has it in his possession, Jackson is able to see where defenders are heading, and compensate by taking the ball in the opposite direction.
The wrinkle worked on both fronts against the Big Reds. Not only did Jackson have a career-best rushing performance but Alexander hit Austin Giacomo for a 63-yard touchdown pass off a play fake designed to look like a draw.
"Everybody's responding well, and everybody keeps getting better," GW Coach Steve Edwards Jr. said of his team's ability to adapt after the win. "It's like everybody in their own certain way keeps getting better, and that's a positive for me as a coach."
Riffe remains the team's leading rusher with 1,379 yards and 18 touchdowns. An MRI early last week showed no major damage with his ankle, and he is expected to be back in the lineup Friday when the Patriots play host to Ripley (2-6).
After Friday's win Jackson has 899 rushing yards on 88 carries for 15 touchdowns.
WHEELING PARK's 42-22 win over Steubenville (Ohio) on Friday night was the first time the Big Red lost to a West Virginia team since falling to Weir in 1963. It broke a string of 12 straight losses to Steubenville by the Patriots, whose school opened in 1976. Big Red had won 36 straight against Mountain State opponent.s
But Steubenville's mastery over Wheeling teams stretched much further back. No Wheeling public school had beaten Steubenville since Wheeling High School won a game in 1910, a span of 103 years.