Elisha Ortiz stood 8 yards in the backfield before taking a handoff and immediately getting dragged down by an unblocked Orange Coast defensive end 5 yards behind the line scrimmage.
The Bakersfield College running back flipped the ball to the official, brushed himself off and clapped his hands to urge on the rest of the offense, only to do it all again.
On the next play, an Orange Coast defensive tackle got inside and quickly past BC left tackle Eamon Sullivan. Ortiz had to juke the defender 3 yards behind the line and was still taken down by two others for a 1-yard loss.
“We have got to be able to run the ball better than what we did tonight,” BC head coach Jeff Chudy said after the 41-7 win on Sept. 29. “That’s gotta be our No. 1 challenge this bye week. We’re gonna play against a really good football team.”
The bye week has come and gone. The state-ranked No. 16 Renegades (3-2) will open National Conference Northern Division play at No. 2 Ventura (4-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m. BC’s running game and the adjustments it has made will be put to the test.
Despite featuring a roster with several talented running backs, BC is just 25th in the state with 156.6 rushing yards per game and 32nd with 4 yards per rush. In the last two games, the Renegades have been held to 140 rushing yards on 64 attempts.
“It’s a pivotal part where we’re at in the season right now. We have got to be able to run the ball with some consistency and we gotta execute better,” Chudy said on Thursday. “That’s really what it comes down to. It’s an execution issue right now. And so for us to be successful moving forward, we’re gonna be have to be able to run the ball. There’s no two ways around it.”
Against Orange Coast, BC had 22 first down plays and ran the ball 19 times on first down. Those 19 rushes totaled just 24 yards for an average of 1.1 yards on first down carries. Ortiz, the feature back of the offense, had 12 of those carries for negative-9 yards (He totaled 19 carries for negative-2 yards in the contest).
Wide receiver Cameron Roberson had the Renegades’ longest first down run with a jet sweep for 16 yards. On the play, which was designed to go right, Roberson was cornered by four defenders 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He cut back laterally across the field and got a block from Irby to make something from nothing.
“We missed blocks,” Ortiz said. “We didn’t work to guys that we were supposed to work to because of the different fronts that were thrown at us. We kind of didn't have the right adjustments to make at the moment.”
All season, defenses have keyed in on Ortiz and the running game. The passing attack hasn’t been much of a threat at 61st in the state with 121.4 yards per game.
Dealing with injuries and lack of size, the offensive line has been porous.
In the Orange Coast win, BC repeatedly tried to run out of a pistol formation. Quarterback Jacob Irby was typically lined up about 4.5 or 5.5 yards behind the line of scrimmage with Ortiz 8 yards back from the line — deeper than the common alignment. The deep start and poor line play contributed to the nine first down runs (out of 19 total) for negative yardage.
“It’s 11 moving parts,” Chudy said, “so you can’t say, ‘Well, it’s this guy. It’s this group. It’s that group.’ Collectively, it’s 11 guys.”
BC spent the bye week making adjustments to the run game, Ortiz said. The coaches will try to get him the ball outside more to utilize his speed and some of the blocking assignments have been changed, Ortiz added.
Ventura has used three-man and four-man defensive fronts this season, Ortiz said, so BC will have to be ready to adjust to either.
“Our success is really going to be predicated on how well we improve and how well we run the ball from here on forward,” Chudy said. “It’s a big part of what’s gonna happen on Saturday and moving forward.”