Running back core displaying grit early on

Junior running back JaMycal Hasty leads the attack against Abilene Christian on Saturday in McLane Stadium. Hasty finished with 169 total yards and two touchdowns in Baylor's season opening 55-27 win. Photo credit: MJ Routh | Multimedia Journalist

By Ben Everett | Sports Editor

In Baylor football’s 55-27 season-opening win over Abilene Christian, one position group stood out above the rest.

Baylor’s running back core of junior JaMycal Hasty, sophomores John Lovett and Trestan Ebner combined 255 total rushing yards, 106 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The Bears put up 75 more rushing yards than ACU, scored four more rushing touchdowns than the Wildcats and averaged 8.2 yards per rush attempt.

Despite the trio totaling almost 60 percent of the Bears’ total offense, Hasty credited the offense as a whole for allowing the running backs to succeed.

“We had an explosive day on the offensive side,” Hasty said. “The offense did a great job of moving guys out of the way [and] opening lanes for the backs to get the ball.”

Hasty had an injury-marred sophomore season in which he missed four games and only totaled 314 rushing yards and one touchdown. He posted 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns on Saturday with 67 receiving yards.

After taking over as the starting running back in 2017 when Hasty was hindered by knee strain, Lovett led the Bears in rushing with 445 yards and seven touchdowns. On Saturday, Lovett exploded with a career-high 120 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Despite the career day on Saturday, Lovett will continue to serve as the backup running back to veteran Hasty. Lovett said Hasty, who graduated with his degree in August, has been a good mentor to him since he’s been around the program for four years.

“‘J-Mike’ definitely knows the whole program, so he teaches me a lot,” Lovett said. “I learn from him. When he [plays well], I’m happy for him.”

Ebner excelled in passing during his freshman season, notching 109 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions against West Virginia. Ebner continued that trend on Saturday with 39 receiving yards and 29 rushing yards against ACU.

Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said each running back has a different style, but they all contribute in a positive way.

“They’re both good runners, but JaMycal is maybe a little bit more [side to side]; Lovett’s a little more downhill,” Rhule said. “But they both find a way to get yards. [Ebner] came out of the back field and caught some balls. He got hit and caught some balls for some big gains. I think we have three good backs.”

The 2017 season saw the Bears turn to the freshmen Lovett and Ebner after junior running back Terence Williams announced his intentions to transfer and Hasty went down with knee injuries. So far, the experience has paid off, as each member of the running back core played an important role in Saturday’s win.

Lovett said the three running backs continually push each other to be great and it shows on the field.

“All day, every day — at practice and the film room,” Lovett said. “We correct each other. We’re always there for each other. We push and compete.”

Hasty, Lovett and Ebner look to continue their success in the ground game when the Bears face UTSA at 6 p.m. Saturday in San Antonio.