ATHENS, Ga. — The week leading up to Georgia’s loss at Auburn, word swirled among players and coaches that the Tigers’ rushing attack this season was similar to Georgia Tech’s.
Though the Tigers run a no-huddle, spread-like scheme and the Yellow Jackets run the triple-option, both average more than 300 yards rushing a game.
Auburn rolled up 323 yards against the Bulldogs two weeks ago. Now, the Bulldogs have to prepare to be run ragged again trying to stop the Yellow Jackets, who are fourth in the nation with 316.1 rushing yards a game.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he hopes the defense took the trip to Auburn as a lesson before heading to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday.
“It’s philosophically the same as far as wanting to run it and having a QB runner and that type of thing, but the type of plays that they run are just so different,” Richt said Tuesday of Auburn’s and Georgia Tech’s schemes.
Georgia has given up fewer than 100 yards rushing in four games this season – against North Texas (7), Louisiana State (77), Appalachian State (32) and Kentucky (62).
But it also allowed more than 200 yards twice – against South Carolina (226) and Auburn (323), though Clemson came close (197).
Georgia is 30th in the country in run defense at 138.1 yards per game.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said the up-and-down performances could be attributed to Georgia’s struggles early on to line up in the right spots and make pre-snap adjustments.
“The last few games they’ve been better. Against Auburn, they gave up some yards but forced them to kick field goals in the red zone,” Johnson said. “Again maybe it’s the competition, but I think they’re just growing up. It’s hard to pinpoint anything exactly.”
Defensive lineman Garrison Smith emphasized discipline when facing the triple-option.
“No matter how bored you get, you go to do your job,” said Smith. “It’s assignment football.”
The Bulldogs (7-4 overall, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) gave up 306 rushing yards in a 42-10 victory last season and have allowed the Yellow Jackets to average 314.8 yards on the ground the last five times the teams have met. That includes the 409 the Bulldogs gave up in their 45-42 loss in 2008.
“It’s just a little bit different of a scheme than you normally play against, so I don’t think there’s that much of a difference,” Georgia safety Connor Norman said. “I really think you just got to continue to play your fundamentals and play your assignments.”
On top of stopping the run, Georgia’s defensive linemen have to manage around Georgia Tech’s cut-blocking technique at the line of scrimmage.
“I don’t think no lineman looks forward to that, but it’s football so you got to play against it,” Smith said. “It ain’t no big deal or nothing.”
This season, Georgia Tech (7-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) has four backs with more than 400 yards — David Sims (746), Robert Godhigh (623), Zach Laskey (446) and quarterback Vad Lee (426), who have combined for 30 touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets are fourth in the country in third-down conversions at 53 percent and they have scored a touchdown on 36 or their 42 trips to the red zone.
“I’m glad we had a good victory (against Kentucky) and we’re in good spirits right now at least because you better had bring your best, we got to bring our best to have a chance in this game,” Richt said.