Originally created 11/15/02

Wounded Georgia featuring Gibson, Musa

AUBURN, Ala. -- Georgia and Auburn must rely on some reserves to make big plays this weekend.

The No. 7 Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1) can clinch the SEC East with a win over the No. 24 Tigers (7-2, 4-2) on Saturday. But they will be without leading receiver Terrence Edwards after he separated his shoulder last week.

Damien Gary also is out with a torn leg muscle. Even Fred Gibson, the Bulldogs' top remaining receiver, is playing with a cast on his left hand after having thumb surgery three weeks ago.

Michael Johnson, Reggie Brown and freshmen Bryan McClendon and Mario Raley have to collectively pick up the slack.

"We've got a lot of confidence that they can come in, step up and play big," quarterback David Greene said.

Auburn's only bona fide star, tailback Carnell Williams, is out for the season after breaking his left leg against Florida last month.

Ronnie Brown has run for 523 yards and eight touchdowns in just over 3 1/2 games since taking over for Williams.

He doesn't have the game-breaking abilities of Williams, who carried 41 times for 167 yards in last year's victory over the Bulldogs. But Brown is 20 pounds heavier and has been just as effective.

Georgia also has a good back in Musa Smith, the league's No. 2 rusher.

That could play into the weakness of Auburn's defense, which has picked off 18 passes but gave up a school-worst 241 yards rushing to Arkansas tailback Fred Talley earlier this season.

Smith carried 37 times against Mississippi last week.

"He's running the ball more and running the ball with more authority and they're going with it a little more," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "You can't take it all away. You only have 11 players out there.

"That's the biggest difference in Georgia's football team this year is they're more balanced offensively."

Auburn cornerback Travaris Robinson remains wary of the Bulldogs' receivers.

"I'm sure that helped us out a lot by them losing some of their guys," Robinson said. "But a great team like that, they've got guys that we haven't even heard of that can do the same things.

"We just don't know who they are right now."

The new receivers might not be able to do what Edwards did. He has nearly as many receiving yards (804) as Auburn's top three pass-catchers combined (817). Even though Gibson is in a cast, Tuberville is aware of his skill.

"He just knows what to do with the football," said Tuberville, who compared Gibson to former Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin. "He's one of the best receivers in the league, if not the best receiver in the league.

"That guy can play."

There's no mystery - and nothing fancy - about what Auburn does best offensively. Brown's rushing has helped Auburn win games.

Quarterback Jason Campbell, who has started the past three games, has only thrown one interception in 91 passes this season while directing a ball-control offense.

"Their whole game centers on Ronnie Brown right now and the play-action pass," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "If they can just line up and hammer us running the ball, it's going to be very difficult for us to win."


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