Originally created 09/18/02

Georgia befuddled by lack of offense



ATHENS, Ga. -- No. 8 Georgia wasn't supposed to have trouble getting to the end zone.

Not with an experienced offensive line, a talented young quarterback, a deep group of receivers and a bruising running back.

After two games, though, the Bulldogs have fallen flat on their faces - usually because they're tripping each other up, or missing blocks, or failing to break tackles, or dropping passes.

"It's frustrating. It really is," offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said Tuesday. "We began the season with high expectations that we would move the ball effectively and efficiently."

Instead, the Bulldogs (2-0) have scored only three offensive touchdowns - all with considerable help from their special teams or the opponent.

In the season-opening victory over Clemson, Georgia had two short scoring drives - covering 16 and 31 yards - after the Tigers shanked a punt and allowed a 40-yard punt return by Damien Gary.

Georgia's other offensive TD came on a nine-play, 80-yard drive, but that possession wasn't as impressive as it sounds. Twice, the Bulldogs were stopped on third down; both times, they kept the ball when Clemson was penalized for personal fouls.

The other TD in a 31-28 victory came on Fred Gibson's kickoff return.

Last week, the offense didn't reach the end zone at all against South Carolina.

Georgia's only TD came on defensive end David Pollack's remarkable interception, but the Bulldogs held on for a 13-7 victory.

"We're our own worst enemy," coach Mark Richt said. "We've missed assignments, we've dropped balls, we've had the quarterback's foot stepped on, we haven't snapped the ball right."

By most standards, the Bulldogs appear to be loaded on offense. Consider:

-The line has five senior starters, including possible All-American Jon Stinchcomb.

-Quarterback David Greene is coming off a brilliant rookie season, in which he set school records for passing yards (2,789) and touchdowns (17) by a freshman.

-The receiving corps is one of the deepest in the country, led by senior Terrence Edwards - the school record holder for TD catches - and Gibson, who had a scintillating freshman season.

-Running back Musa Smith was supposedly healthy after being slowed last season by a groin injury.

Except for Stinchcomb, no one has played up to expectations.

The offensive line made two key errors last week. Someone stepped on Greene's foot after a snap, tripping up the quarterback before he could drop back. On another occasion, center Ian Knight whiffed on his shotgun snap, failing to remove the point of the ball from a divot.

Greene has averaged only 118 yards passing in his first two games, with one TD and one interception. His rating of 110.31 ranks eighth in the Southeastern Conference and 74th nationally.

Smith is averaging 104 yards per game, but he hasn't broken many tackles. His longest run of the season is 14 yards, and he's reached double figures with just five of his 50 carries.

As for the receivers, they dropped three passes against South Carolina and are missing most of their downfield blocks, hampering efforts to open up the running game.

Overall, the Bulldogs rank last in the SEC and 111th nationally in total yards, averaging a pitiful 250 per game. Just 15 of their 124 plays have gone for at least 10 yards - and only four of those have covered more than 20 yards.

Then there's Richt, whose decision-making has come into question. The second-year coach admitted Tuesday that he made a mistake by going with freshman running back Tyson Browning when the Bulldogs got the ball at South Carolina's 12-yard line on a fumbled punt.

Browning fumbled right back to the Gamecocks on his first college carry.

"If I had it to do again, would I have Musa in the game? Yes," Richt said. "I told Musa he was going back in on the next play, but there wasn't a next play."

Also, Richt may have rattled Greene's confidence by starting the season with a two-quarterback system.

Redshirt freshman D.J. Shockley was impressive in his debut against Clemson, running for one TD and throwing for another. Last week, though, he was 0-for-3 passing and broke a bone in his left foot while running in the fourth quarter, knocking him out for 4-to-6 weeks.

With talk of a quarterback controversy put on hold, Richt conceded that Greene might benefit from knowing he's the full-time starter again.

"If we do well, everyone will say that was it," Richt said. "But no matter who's at quarterback, it has no impact on Terrence hanging on to the ball, or Musa hanging on to the ball, or Tyson Browning hanging on to the ball."

The Bulldogs have a chance to work on their offensive problems the next two weeks. They meet Division I-AA Northwestern State on Saturday, followed by winless New Mexico State.

"I've very confident we're going to straighten this thing out," Richt said. "Hopefully this week we can begin that trend."