November 10, 2010

Dawgs' offense needs to click

With Auburn scoring more points than there are rolls of toilet paper in the trees surrounding Toomer's Corner, one would think the onus would be on the Georgia offense more than it has at any point this season.

While there's no question that the Bulldogs will need to be operating at peak efficiency, according to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, it's going to be equally important for the Bulldog to not get impatient if things don't initially go their way.

"I think when you play a team like Auburn that has produced on offense and been very productive, you might get impatient and I don't think we can get impatient. We have to play our game," Bobo said. "Last year was a good example of that. We got down 14-0 early, they were playing good defense and they're a good defensive football team. But we didn't panic, we kept to our game plan, did what we wanted to do coming into the game and executed enough and made enough plays to win."

Of course, there is one not-so-small difference this year - quarterback Cameron Newton.

Newton wasn't around for last season's game in Athens, and barring any late word from the NCAA, will be at the controls for the Tigers when Auburn and Georgia kickoff Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium (3:30 p.m., CBS).

If Newton doesn't play, then yes, that could well change the complexion. But until that happens, the Bulldogs will continue to prepare as if the former Westlake star will play. Assuming he does head coach Mark Richt admits the pressure will be on his offense to keep up.

"If they do what they've been doing and score at the pace they've been scoring, it puts pressure on all offenses to keep up. You have a plan going in and you want to stick to your plan, but if the points get so far out of whack that you just have to flat out try to chunk it every down to stay in it, it can put a lot of pressure on you," Richt said. "It's been well-documented; everybody seems to remind me once a week that when we start slow, we don't win. You don't want to start slow in this one. Last year we started out down 14-0 and came back and won it. But this offense here is more prolific than a year ago. It would be tough to get in that situation."

Naturally, redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray will play a large role in whatever success the offense is able to have.

Despite some hiccups in the loss to Florida, Murray's 2,079 passing yards rank third in the SEC while his 15 touchdown passes give him the same number as Newton.

But while many are placing the burden on Georgia's offense, Murray thinks the Bulldog defense will have its say before the evening is complete.

"We've just got to play our game with everything. I trust our defense and I trust Coach (Todd) Grantham that he'll put our guys in position to hold them and not let them score every possession like they have most of the year," Murray said. "I think he will have a great gameplan for them. I have confidence that they won't go out and put 50, 60 points like they have. I don't think it's going to be as high of a scoring game as people think it's going to be with our talent on defense. But offensively, we've just got to go out and execute; both running and passing. Our goal is to control the clock, keep our defense rested and if we can do that, limit their opportunities to score, that will be big for us."

Bobo tends to agree.

A workmanlike, ball-control attack might be the best defense against the Tigers who are averaging 40 points per game. However, that might not be quite so easy against a defense ranked third in the SEC against the run (114.6 yards per game) and feature one of the league's top defensive players in defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

"It's going to be important, but the most important thing is to take advantage of our possessions and our opportunities when they come. We can't get impatient and think we're going to be Auburn. We've got to do what we've got to do to move the ball and execute it and if we have an opportunity to make a play, we've got to make it," Bobo said. "That might be a third down, that might be a red zone when we've got a guy open, we've got to execute. If they play good defense and stop us, that's one thing, but if we've got a chance to make a play, we've got to take advantage of our opportunities."

If Georgia is to pull the upset, A.J. Green will likely need to have a big day.

Despite missing four games to suspension, Green leads the Bulldogs with 32 catches for 510 yards and seven scores and Tiger coach Gene Chizik has already proclaimed stopping the Bulldog star will be his primary concern.

"Their base deal is play a two-shell and because they've got such good interior linemen, especially No. 90 (Fairley), they feel they can create pressure with him so you're not going to get a lot of one-on-one; they're going to play a lot of zone," Bobo said. "They could match us up but I've felt good all year with our guys' ability to make plays outside, it's just a matter of making them."

Green said he's prepared for whatever the Tigers may throw his way but won't get frustrated if Auburn somehow keeps him out of the flow.

"I don't think it's just going to be a gameplan surrounding me, I'm just going to go out there and play," Green said. " I'm not going to force anything, they're not going to force anything to me. If that's not involving me and we're still making plays, hey, as long as we're putting points on the board and we're winning, I'm gonna do my part."

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