Originally created 10/03/04

Bulldogs surprising in blowout



ATHENS, Ga. - Mark Richt thought the same thing that everybody else did as he watched his Georgia Bulldogs pile 45 points on the fifth-ranked defense in the nation.

Where the heck has that been?

"I was a little befuddled myself," the Georgia coach said of the two seasons his talented offense has spent playing opossum. "I've seen some pretty good offensive teams, and we've been practicing extremely well. We've got guys that can make plays. I've seen them make them all the time like that in practice. I was like, 'What is the problem?'"

Nothing, apparently, that a little man-to-man coverage, a power running game and a carefree senior quarterback couldn't fix. Georgia shoved 430 yards and 45 points on LSU's vaunted defense Saturday in Sanford Stadium. On a day when quarterback David Greene set a school record with five touchdown passes, the Bulldogs actually ran for more yards (221) than they threw for (209).

"Hopefully this will give us some confidence and momentum," Richt said. "We needed a boost for sure."

Coming into Saturday's much-anticipated showdown with SEC West nemesis Louisiana State, there were more questions than answers about the abilities of these Bulldogs. Were they worthy of the No. 3 ranking in the nation? Were they capable of scoring touchdowns in the red zone? Could they convert a third down? Was the defense going to have to carry the offense as far as Georgia might be capable of going?

On national television against the No. 13 Tigers and defending national champions, most doubts were emphatically erased.

"Everybody got a chance to see that on CBS," said receiver Fred Gibson, who caught two of Greene's five touchdown passes in only 10 completions. "Let them be the judge."

LSU came into the game ranked first in the SEC and fifth in the nation in total defense. They had manhandled Georgia to such a degree in two victories a year ago that many believed the color of Greene's nightmares were Mardi Gras purple and gold.

But that wasn't the case at all. In fact, Georgia's offense had been licking its chops all week to get a taste of the Tigers' defenders. The Bulldogs were ready to stack their receivers against LSU's All-American single-coverage corners all day long.

It wasn't even close.

Gibson and Reggie Brown treated cornerbacks Corey Webster and Travis Daniels like they were tackling dummies. Did that prove anything?

"Yeah," said Brown, who established a personal best with 110 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. "That we're two of the best receivers in the nation. I don't want to gloat, but those were supposed to be the best corners around. We had a good day on them."

Gibson was equally ... er ... demure.

"Yes, they've got two NFL type corners," he said, "but on this team we've got two NFL type receivers. We made plays when it came to us."

Georgia jumped on LSU early and never let up. The defense stuffed LSU's first six possessions and forced three fumbles, which the offense converted into 21 points. A pair of freshmen running backs (Danny Ware and Thomas Brown) combined for 190 rushing yards.

"I was a little surprised myself," said Richt. "I thought we could win the game but maybe not in that fashion."

To say LSU was stunned by Georgia's performance would be an understatement. If a single moment could sum up just how discombobulated and unraveled the Tigers truly were, it was a kickoff return by freshman Xavier Carter.

Georgia had just gone up 31-10 in the third quarter. Carter took the kick five yards deep in the end zone and elected to run out despite the urging of teammate Joe Addai. Carter had second thoughts and took a knee - at the 1-yard line - thus setting forever the record for the shortest kickoff return out of the end zone in collegiate history.

"I'm glad that I'm not him," said Georgia safety Thomas Davis.

A quick punt later and Georgia was set up for Greene's record fifth touchdown pass.

"We've never made that many plays - especially against such a good team," said Greene.

"I think we showed everybody why we're ranked No. 3 today," said Gibson.

More importantly, they showed themselves their own potential.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com