Whenever an electrifying running back tandem in football emerges, a nickname usually follows: Thunder and Lightning, Smash and Dash, Earth, Wind and Fire, to name a few.
At Texas Southern, it’s a little lower key - just Martin and Marcus (for now).
Martin Gilbert and Marcus Wright, two senior running backs, lead the ground-oriented Tigers.
The two have combined for 1,325 yards and 16 touchdowns - good enough to propel TSU to the top of the Southwestern Athletic Conference in rushing, time of possession and No. 2 in total offense.
Gilbert is the speed back, while Wright is a more patient, bruiser.
There differences in style and willingness to help one another have played a huge role in their success this season.
“He has my back and I have his back all the time,” Gilbert said.
When one is in the game, the other looks for the defense’s tendencies from the sideline, and they constantly go over what they see from their vantage points.
Wright said having Gilbert to lean on is a luxury considering the pounding a running back takes. The two-running back system allows Gilbert and Wright to stay fresh, while also giving defenses more to consider.
“It’s always a good feeling when teams have to game-plan for both of us,” Wright said. “Martin keeps those linebackers on their heels, and it gives me enough time to run up on them.”
Both backs are averaging about 18 carries per game, with Gilbert having 151 total attempts and Wright 148.
TSU coach Kevin Ramsey said the back with the hot hand will get the most carries.
“We don’t have a one-back situation, so they go get it and go after it,” Ramsey said. “That’s been the approach, and it’s been causing them to max out.”
Wright and Gilbert live across the hall from one another, travel together on road trips and sit together at the training table. But, don’t think there isn’t a little competition between the two.
They said that they try to outplay their counterpart, but the friendly competition makes them more complete running backs.
Gilbert has 707 rushing yards, second in the SWAC behind Alabama A&M’s Kaderius Lacey. Wright has 618. Both backs have led the Tigers in rushing in four games. But, Gilbert has a six-touchdown lead over Wright.
Gilbert has 11 rushing touchdowns and is tied for the top spot in scoring in the SWAC with Grambling wide receiver Mario Louis.
Despite their success together, there hasn’t been a game this season where both ran for more than 100 yards. Their highest output came in Week 1 against Prairie View, when Wright rushed for 143 yards, while Gilbert added 97.
Coming off a season-low 73 rushing yards combined in a 12-9 loss to Mississippi Valley last week, Wright and Gilbert will have a chance of redemption Saturday against Southern University at Delmar Stadium.
The Jaguars come into the game ranked last in rushing defense in the SWAC, allowing 180 yards per game. Meanwhile, Texas Southern averages 179 rushing yards.
With one rushing power and one team that struggles stopping the run, something has to give, right?
“Our game plan is to play to our strengths,” Ramsey said. “Anybody can look at the stats and tell that our strength is our running game. That’s what we live by.”
As for that nickname? Ramsey laughed.
“We need someone to come up with something,” he said.