Originally created 10/14/02

Georgia does nothing but win



ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia hasn't blown out a bunch of teams on the way to its best start in two decades.

No, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs are getting by with those boring, ol' traits that coaches love to talk about: limiting mistakes on offense, playing stingy defense and getting big plays from the special teams.

Hmm, sounds a lot like the 1980 Dawgs, who kept winning ugly all the way to a national championship.

"We have a hard time pulling away from anybody, but we're doing what it takes to win," coach Mark Richt said after the Bulldogs held on for an 18-13 victory over Tennessee on Saturday. "This team has as much fighting heart as any I've ever been around."

Georgia has won four games by a total of 16 points (forget victories over lowly New Mexico State and Division I-AA Northwestern State, which were little more than glorified scrimmages).

The Bulldogs dominated on special teams for a 31-28 triumph over Clemson. They got by South Carolina 13-7 without scoring an offensive touchdown. They used a punishing ground game to beat Alabama 27-25. And, finally, they took advantage of a Tennessee team that didn't have starting quarterback Casey Clausen.

Impressive? Not really. Unbeaten? You bet.

Georgia is 6-0 for the first time since 1982, when it won the last of three straight Southeastern Conference titles. Since then, the Bulldogs have endured a 20-year championship drought, the longest in school history.

Halfway through the regular season, Georgia is sitting pretty in the SEC as the only unbeaten team. Every other East Division team except South Carolina has at least one conference loss, and the Bulldogs hold a tiebreaker advantage over the Gamecocks.

But the Bulldogs are thinking about more than reaching the Dec. 7 SEC championship game in Atlanta. They want to duplicate the feat of the '80 team, which won the only Associated Press national title in school history.

"We set some lofty goals at the beginning of the season, and we're still in position to reach those goals," offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said. "We're capable of doing some special things around here. We don't want to cut ourselves short from reaching the apex of college football."

This group doesn't have a dominating player such as Herschel Walker, but there are similarities between the teams.

The '80 Dawgs won half of their 12 games by seven points or less. They rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Tennessee and wouldn't have beaten Florida without an improbable 93-yard touchdown pass from Buck Belue to Lindsey Scott.

The '80 Dawgs allowed just 11.4 points per game, had a top-notch kicker in Rex Robinson and held a huge advantage in turnover margin, totaling 48 interceptions and fumbles while losing the ball only 21 times.

This Georgia team is doing the little things, as well.

The defense has allowed only 15 points a game and scored a couple of touchdowns. The special teams have been brilliant: Billy Bennett is 9-of-10 on field-goal attempts, including a last-minute kick to beat Alabama; Damien Gary is one of the nation's most dangerous punt returners; and Georgia blocked two more kicks against Tennessee, one of them resulting in a safety.

"Anytime you face a team like Tennessee, you know you're going to be in a war," said Bennett, who made three field goals against the Volunteers. "Little things win a war. We're riding high as a special teams right now."

The Bulldogs are still struggling on offense, failing to put away a Tennessee team that went most of way with freshman James Banks at quarterback.

On the other hand, they keep coming through when it mattered. Facing fourth-and-2 at the Tennessee 35 with 1:43 remaining, they flipped the ball to reserve tailback Tony Milton and made three key blocks to clear the way for a 25-yard run that clinched the victory.

Pretty? Not really. Impressive? You bet.

"The offense is not clicking like we know it can," said Reggie Brown, who scored Georgia's lone touchdown and blocked a punt that resulted in the safety. "As long as we keep coming up with the win, it's all good."