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September 5, 2007
Speed can be the greatest camouflage in college football.
That must be how Oklahoma State felt Saturday, with Georgia defenders seemingly sneaking out from between the hedges to ambush what was thought to be one of the nation's best offenses.
With eight first-time starters on defense Saturday, Bulldogs coordinator Willie Martinez anticipated mistakes here and there against Oklahoma State's balanced attack. He hoped speed would help mask the rough edges of his untested defense.
Martinez's defense held Oklahoma State to 14 points, 21 less than the Cowboys averaged last season. For his efforts in Georgia's 35-14 victory, Rivals.com named Martinez its National Coordinator of the Week.
"As good as Oklahoma State was on offense last year, it's a new season, and new stuff happens every year," Martinez said. "If we make up for mistakes with speed and run to the ball, we could have success. We were talking about that prior to the game."
Oklahoma State has some speed of its own, from a seemingly endless stockpile of athletes. Chief among those is receiver Adarius Bowman, who has a 300-yard receiving game in his past and big NFL paychecks in his future.
Georgia limited him to 65 receiving yards and one touchdown in the first half. He didn't touch the ball after halftime.
Martinez's plan was simple: Stop Bowman's distributor, and Georgia would stop Bowman.
For the most part, Martinez rushed only four linemen, who were rotated throughout the game. That freed the remainder of the defense to cover Bowman and tight end Brandon Pettigrew while containing quarterback Bobby Reid's running ability. The result was five sacks from five players and an interception.
"We felt they would run Bobby Reid," Martinez said. "He gives you that threat. We wanted to contain him. We needed to start there first and then try to stop Bowman and Pettigrew."
Limiting Reid shut down Oklahoma State's balance. The Cowboys were one of just two teams (Boise State was the other) that averaged at least 200 passing yards and 200 rushing yards per game last season. But Georgia stopped the Cowboys from reaching either landmark (196 passing yards and 70 rushing yards).
There"s little time for Martinez to gush over his defense's performance, though: Georgia plays host to Steve Spurrier's South Carolina team Saturday.
"The thing we tell our kids is that our game is over with," Martinez said. "The good thing is that we won, but can we do it again? Can we play at same speed? Can we get better and can we play more fundamentally sound?"
OTHER NOMINEES FOR COORDINATOR OF THE WEEK:
Jon Tenuta, Georgia Tech
Bo Pelini, LSU