Morgan Ellison's big day keys IU football offense


Then-freshman running back Morgan Ellison runs the ball against Georgia Southern on September 23, 2017, at Memorial Stadium. On Friday, Ellison was suspended indefinitely by the team.  Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

Freshman running back Morgan Ellison's two touchdowns Saturday weren't special.

Ellison scored on a two-yard rushing score and a one-yard rushing score, his first career collegiate touchdowns, during the first half of IU's 52-17 victory against Georgia Southern.

But it's what Ellison did when he wasn't near the end zone that may have earned him the role of IU's starting running back going forward.

For the first time this season, an IU running back carried the ball more than 12 times. Ellison received 25 carries against the Eagles, and made the most of each one.

The Ohio native gained 186 yards, becoming the 11th true freshman in IU football history to gain at least 100 yards in a game.

It was the way Ellison gained those yards that left an impression on IU Coach Tom Allen.

"He's got great feet," Allen said. "He's quick. He's got burst and vision. He's got some good speed too. Really proud of Morgan Ellison."

The first-year player has made his mark since arriving in Bloomington this summer. He was singled out by Allen in August as a player who made an impact during preseason camp.

"We kind of commented on him throughout fall camp and he proved me right today," Allen said.

Even when Ellison made mistakes against the Eagles, good things happened for IU.

With the Hoosiers up 14-0 with five minutes to go in the first quarter, Ellison took a handoff from freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey at the Georgia Southern one-yard line. Ellison already had a rushing touchdown in the game and was looking for his second.

He rushed for no gain back to the line of scrimmage before being hit by Georgia Southern freshman cornerback Darrell Baker Jr.

The hit forced Ellison to fumble the ball, which rolled into the end zone and was recovered by IU junior wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. for a Hoosier touchdown. The score would prove to be the deciding factor in the game.

"Simmie came back and gave me a high-five and said, 'Thanks dude,'" Ellison said. "It was alright." 

IU's rushing attack had been lackluster in its opening two games.

As a team, IU ran for only 128 net yards combined against then-No. 2 Ohio State and Virginia. Ellison eclipsed that mark by himself against the Eagles.

The total yardage posted by Ellison was the fourth-highest by an IU freshman in a single game.  

"The O-line did a great job," Ellison said. "Good things will happen if they do their job and I do my job, and I think down the line good things will happen."

On a day in which IU experimented with its two quarterback system of Ramsey and senior quarterback Richard Lagow, Ellison provided a constant for the IU offense.

He benefitted from the absence of junior running back Mike Majette, the starter on IU's depth chart earlier in the week, who did not play in the game.

However, if Ellison can sustain the way he ran Saturday afternoon during IU's upcoming Big Ten schedule, he won't have to worry about climbing up the depth chart. 

"I knew Mike wasn't really playing this game, so it was kind of like somebody has to step up and just do it," Ellison said. "I felt like it was the time, honestly."

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