Originally created 09/15/03

Dogs' signals are straight



It's hard to quibble with three wins by a combined score of 90-17, but Mark Richt found a way.

With a straight face, he expressed concern that his team has yet to prove itself in a close game.

In other words, life is good.

"We haven't been in a situation where we've been behind or had someone come back on us and take away our momentum," Richt said after Saturday's 31-7 manhandling of South Carolina. "We don't know how we'll handle adversity."

Adversity? The only adversity Georgia has had to deal with so far has been manufactured. The No. 7 Bulldogs have trashed their first three opponents, along with the numerous question marks that hovered over them before the season.

If Richt really wants to see how his team can handle adverse circumstances, South Carolina coach Lou Holtz would probably be glad to let him borrow some.

There are lots of reasons why the gap between these two programs has widened the past two years, but the difference between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks can be summed up quickly with a glance at the quarterback position.

Georgia's David Greene has become the picture of poise and efficiency, dissecting defenses with surgical precision. He owned South Carolina on Saturday - checking into the right plays and out of the wrong ones, burning the Gamecocks on third downs and making a veteran secondary look silly.

Last season, Bulldogs fans often wondered why they didn't see more of D.J. Shockley. This year, they're wondering why they don't see less of him.

Shockley has yet to provide a compelling reason why he should be on the field in place of Greene. He's made a few nice runs, but he's also made a few bad decisions Greene seldom makes.

With the game still in doubt at Clemson a few weeks ago, Shockley ventured into his own end zone and threw an ill-advised pass that should have been intercepted. Against South Carolina, he made an errant pitch on an option that the Gamecocks recovered.

Those kind of mistakes can hurt a lot more against a team like No. 11 Louisiana State, where Georgia travels for a Saturday afternoon showdown (3:30, CBS-Ch. 12)

Before the season, some expected Shockley to play a more prominent role than he did in 2002. Richt would need Shockley's running ability while a young and inexperienced offensive line developed.

Or so the reasoning went.

To date, a starting line of sophomores and freshmen has had few problems opening holes. One would hope Richt would have less of a problem leaving Shockley on the sidelines.

  • The real quarterback controversy is in Columbia, where Holtz and his son, offensive coordinator Skip Holtz, will be taking applications this week for the Gamecocks' starting quarterback job.
  • Gamecocks fans have to be peeved. Going into last season, they were under the impression that Corey Jenkins was the perfect fit for their offense. Jenkins wasa failure, unable to move his team or protect the football before he was moved to defense late in a disappointing 5-7 season.

    This year it was Dondrial Pinkins, a junior who was said to have made dramatic improvement in the off-season by becoming a leader and a student of the playbook.

    Georgia's defense took Pinkins to school Saturday, intercepting him twice and making him look like he didn't belong in the SEC. He was seldom comfortable in the pocket, and several of his throws made Skip Holtz cringe.

    Gamecocks fans have legitimate cause to feel misled. They believed Jenkins was the savior, and the Holtzes did nothing to discourage that notion. The coaches gave assurances that Pinkins would protect the football better than Jenkins, but that didn't happen Saturday.

    Now the Holtzes say they'll audition freshman Blake Mitchell, whom they originally planned to redshirt this season.

    "We need a quarterback who can move this team," Skip Holtz said.

    Lou Holtz is in his fifth season at South Carolina. He has signed several highly-rated signal-callers, and not one has panned out enough to allow the Gamecocks to compete against a team of Georgia's caliber.

    Mitchell was heavily recruited during a stellar prep career in LaGrange, Ga., so who knows? Maybe he ends up being the guy who makes the Gamecocks' offense flourish. Maybe he ends up turning into another version of David Greene.

    Whatever happens, Lou and Skip Holtz are dealing with a mess at quarterback right now. And much of it is their own doing.

    PIGSKIN PONDERINGS

    - It's time for the critics to admit Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey made the right decision by pinning his hopes on freshman Reggie Ball.

    We were wrong.

    Ball is an extraordinary talent, and he has proved that in the Yellow Jackets' past two games. Gailey got the heat for demoting Damarius Bilbo during the preseason, so he should get the credit now.

    "They've got a gem there at quarterback," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said after his team's 14-13 escape of Georgia Tech on Saturday night. "He can run, he's got a great arm and he's sharp. I believe he might be one of the better ones Tech has had before he's done."

    - Last week, Richt said South Carolina's new 4-3 defense was virtually identical to the Bulldogs' scheme. Not much was made of the similarities before the game, but Greene seemed much more at ease Saturday than the past two years against South Carolina when he struggled against an unorthodox 3-5-3 setup.

    It had to be beneficial for Greene and the Bulldogs to see the same defense that they face in practice during the week.

    - Didn't take long for Clemson coach Tommy Bowden to scrap his hard-nosed approach. The Tigers went back to the no-huddle in Saturday's 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee and produced 481 yards.

    "Coach Bowden definitely wanted to mix it up,' said offensive lineman Gregory Walker. "He said we were getting a little too predictable."

    - No rational observer doubts that Georgia wiped South Carolina off the field Saturday. Still, it's intriguing to wonder what would have happened had a second-quarter touchdown pass from Pinkins to Troy Williamson not been nullified by a questionable holding penalty.

    Down 10-0, Williamson made a fabulous catch in the back of the end zone for an apparent 27-yard touchdown. But a flag was thrown on left tackle Travelle Wharton, and Pinkins threw an interception four plays later.

    Wharton didn't appear to be holding defensive end Quentin Moses on the play. CBS analyst Todd Blackledge criticized the call.

    Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larry.williams@augustachronicle.com