Originally created 09/02/01

Richt's reign starts off right



ATHENS, Ga. - All the hemming and hawing and hand-wringing about who would be able to lead Mark Richt's Georgia Bulldog offense seems to have been ill spent energy.

Richt's Bulldogs discovered two things in a 45-17 season-opening victory over Arkansas State between the hedges Saturday - they don't need to worry about the starting quarterback and they don't need a huddle.

Redshirt freshman David Greene of Lithonia showed a deft hand in operating Richt's wall-to-wall, no-huddle offense in front of 86,520 anxious fans at sold-out Sanford Stadium. Greene's 21-for-29, 285-yard passing performance in a little more than two quarters of work proved to be worth a little more than the modest faith his head coach displayed during a tight preseason battle with veteran Cory Phillips and heralded freshman D.J. Shockley.

"From where I was standing I don't think David made any poor decisions at all," Richt said, adding that Greene solidified his place as the starter next Saturday against South Carolina.

Greene's poise was perfect from the outset, completing the first 11 passes of his college career and going 12-for-13 for 177 yards as the Bulldogs built a 21-0 lead.

"I felt like I had to prove something to the team, let them know I could play out there in front of 86,000," Greene said. "I wasn't nervous at all today, I felt good."

Excluding the fumbled pitch by Musa Smith on the first play of Georgia's second possession, Greene led the Bulldogs to points on six of seven sustained series - five touchdowns and one Billy Bennett field goal.

By design, Phillips played two series in the first half and most of the fourth quarter, but the junior who started five games in 2000 didn't show the same flash as the left-hander from South Gwinnett High School.

But Phillips did engineer a 92-yard touchdown drive, getting 91 of them on three completions including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Corrie Collier.

"It's great to have two quarterbacks you can rely on," said receiver Terrance Edwards, who had five receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown. "But I was impressed with how calm David was. He exceeded all of my expectations."

There wasn't much else to fret about regarding the debut of Richt's offense, which piled up 598 total yards. Starting at tailback, Smith offered a balance to the passing game, rushing 20 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns.

But the passing game stole the show, with Greene and Phillips combining for 386 yards spread among eight different receivers. Damien Gary led all receivers with eight receptions for 104 yards.

Defensively, Richt expected the Bulldogs to be more opportunistic when they had chances to cause turnovers, but he liked what he saw from a unit that until things got sloppy late in the third quarter had yielded only 119 total yards.

"The defense showed signs of greatness," Richt said, expanding his assessment to the entire team. "We saw glimpses of what could be, and that was exciting."

Who shined: QB David Greene was the star, but RB Musa Smith warrants honorable mention for his 148-yard, three-touchdown performance that included a 49-yard breakaway score.

What worked:The Bulldogs operated a no-huddle offense the entire game. Greene handled it particularly well, going 9-for-9 for 126 yards on his first two sustained series to lead scoring drives of 70 and 99 yards.

What didn't:Substituting junior QB Cory Phillips late in the first quarter. The change disrupted the offense, which stalled on consecutive series before Greene returned.

WHAT'S NEXT: Georgia plays host to SEC East rival South Carolina, Saturday, 7:45 p.m., at Sanford Stadium.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219.