October 2, 2009

Dawgs, Tigers want to get ground running

When breaking down Saturday's huge SEC showing between No. 4 LSU and No. 18 Georgia, the team who gets the most out of its ground game just may have the most to gain.

While that little play on words may seem a bit silly, there's no question that for either team to have the kind of success it wants, a successful running game is going to have to be part of the equation.

Neither did a very good job last week.

The Tigers (4-0, 2-0) were held to a mere 91 yards on 31 attempts in last week's 30-26 squeaker over Mississippi State, while Georgia's numbers were eerily similar, 92 yards on 31 tries.

"I don't think there is any doubt. I think both teams are going to be very intent on running the ball and running it in a very physical way. I don't think either team is going to back away from trying to run that football," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "What usually happens when you don't do well in a particular area where you have history, you aren't going to say let's bail out on it. You're going to say lets get back to the basics and do it better than we did and establish our ability to run the ball. I'm sure they'll be emphasizing it and I know we'll be emphasizing it."

Tiger coach Les Miles couldn't agree more.

His LSU may be unbeaten, but Miles said earlier this week that he wants to his team to start displaying a tougher attitude, and that starts with being able to run the football.

"I think our football team has an aggressive attitude. I think our guys want more opportunity to come off the football. I think there is attitude there," Miles said. "We really, in my opinion, have to get the rhythm so that we're ready to roll. Hopefully, that rhythm will come this Saturday."

Neither team has exactly burned it up on the ground thus far in 2009, either.

Keiland Williams and Charles Scott lead the Tigers with 184 and 179 rushing yards, respectively. Still, the two schools rank No. 10 and No. 11 in rushing offense in the SEC, LSU gaining 130.25 yards per contest and Georgia 112.25, respectively.

Getting Richard Samuel and Caleb King on track would certainly help the Bulldogs' cause.

Both backs have shown flashes, Samuel with 62 carries for 301 yards (including an 80-yard touchdown run at Arkansas) and King who returned against the Razorbacks from a pulled hamstring and has since picked up 114 yards on 22 attempts.

Both players are expected to split time against the Tigers, but Richt hinted he wouldn't mind seeing one of the two begin taking control of the position.

"Caleb's been progressing as he's been able to play. I think he'll certainly get a good share of them. I'm not going to sit here and try to predict if he'll get more than Richard. Right now in my mind they are 50-50 in my thinking," Richt said. "One guy might be running a little bit better than the other, and he may get more. We're not to the position where we saying 75 percent of the totes here and 25 percent there. We looking to more let's play them both, keep them fresh, see how they're doing and kind of go from there."

Turnovers do remain a problem.

Georgia rank's 113th nationally in turnover margin at -2.25, a stat that everybody associated with the Bulldogs know must quickly change.

Richt agrees. But while many fans continue to lament the fact that the Bulldogs rank so far down the list of important statistics like pass defensive (243, 90th), total defense (355.75, 90th) and penalties 78.5 per game (118th), the Bulldog coach prefers to keep focusing on the bottom line.

"We're 3-1 right now. Have we played lights out? No, but we've also played some pretty good football teams. I had a guy call me last night on my show and wanted to gripe about defensive statistics and I didn't mention it, but first of all the 3-1 is more important than where you are ranked offensively or defensively," Richt said. "If you play a couple of teams that you just totally out match and you hold a team to 150 yards total and three points, you get a couple of games like that, that's going to look good on your stats for six weeks or the entire year. But when you play Oklahoma State and Arizona State, you don't have that luxury to be padding stats.

"We knew that going in, and we know that what matters the most is on any given Saturday do we play good enough to win and that's been the most positive thing that I can say right now."

Miles and the Tigers are looking for some positives against the Bulldogs.

Georgia (3-1, 2-0) is the only SEC team that Miles has yet to beat, going 0-2 in two meetings with the Bulldogs.
Saturday's game will be Miles' first trip to Sanford Stadium.

"I've never been to Athens, and I've never played between the hedges," Miles said. "I talked to (Defensive coordinator) John Chavis about it, and he said it's a great environment. It's very much like any of the great SEC venues. It's loud, it's fun, and you'll really enjoy it. I really can't wait."

Richt just wants to see his Bulldogs play a complete game, something that hasn't come close to happening yet, despite the team's 3-1 start.

"There have been times when the offense has been outstanding. There has been times when those six special teams have been special at one time or another. The defense has played extremely well at times and certainly in the red zone all year long. There are a lot of positives that have happened but they've all kind of taken their turn," Richt said. "Thankfully, one of those segments has maybe been the difference in wining these last three games. Now, if we could all come together at the same time and play that kind of football then we will have a chance. If we don't it will be another barnburner I would imagine."

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