Originally created 09/17/06

Dog-day defense



ATHENS, Ga. - Even the much-anticipated first college start for freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford couldn't overshadow another dominating day for Georgia's defense.

Pitching back-to-back shutouts for the first time since its 1980 national championship season, No. 10 Georgia smothered Alabama-Birmingham in a 34-0 victory on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

"It's an amazing feat in this day and time," said Vince Dooley, coach of the Bulldogs' 1980 team. "People are more efficient kicking field goals than ever before. The offenses are much more productive than ever before. There's no question there's great speed on the team, experience at linebacker and those two outside people (Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson), and they are playing with great intensity."

The shutout was fitting considering that Georgia (3-0) gave a halftime video tribute to former defensive coordinator Erk Russell, who died last week.

In the national title season, his "Junkyard Dawgs" had three shutouts, including on consecutive weeks to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

"It's a confidence boost for the defense, and, hopefully, we can keep it going," linebacker Jarvis Jackson said of a team that gave up 382 rushing yards to West Virginia in a 38-35 Sugar Bowl loss last season. "It's a new year. A new Georgia."

Alabama-Birmingham (1-2) was shut out for the first time since 2002 on a day the Blazers penetrated no deeper than the Georgia 36.

"There were no weaknesses," Blazers coach Watson Brown said. "Their front seven was unbelievably dominant, and their secondary was a lot better than I thought."

The visitors were held to 163 yards of total offense. The Blazers' bad day ended when Jeremy Lomax recorded Georgia's fourth sack.

"You look at this UAB team, and we were scared to death," Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "This was a real physical offensive line and physical running backs very similar to an Arkansas, an Auburn and a West Virginia up front. We challenged our guys, and it was good to see them establish the line of scrimmage."

Sanford Stadium erupted after linebacker Tony Taylor had a third-quarter sack of Sam Hunt and then pressured the quarterback on third down on an overthrow.

The noise got louder on the next play when freshman Prince Miller blocked a punt that North Augusta's C.J. Byrd scooped up for a 12-yard touchdown and a 20-0 lead.

"If we continue to play defense and special teams the way we have and we continue to improve offensively," coach Mark Richt said, "I don't know how good we can be, but we can certainly be better."

Stafford's numbers - 10 of 17 for 107 yards - didn't dazzle but a week after throwing three interceptions, Stafford directed an offense that didn't have a turnover.

His day was highlighted by a 4-yard quarterback sweep in which he pinballed off four Blazers for his first college touchdown. He left for the game with 9:16 remaining and a 27-0 lead.

Georgia extended its string of quarters without allowing a touchdown to 10 - dating back to the second quarter of the opener against Western Kentucky.

"We can't expect that on offense," Stafford said. "They're doing a great job but eventually someone's going to put a point up on them."

The Bulldogs became the first college team to shut out Steve Spurrier since 1987 with its 18-0 victory over South Carolina last week. The 12 points allowed this season is the fewest in a three-game span since seven in 1937.

"Them boys are playing lights out," said center Nick Jones said. "It makes it easier on us. We don't have to force, trying to create a lot of points."

Georgia's defense held Alabama-Birmingham to 18 first-quarter yards, but the Bulldogs gave the Blazers first downs with a pair of second-quarter third-down penalties on an offsides and facemask.

In the fourth quarter, a facemask penalty on third down gave Alabama-Birmingham another gift.

"We love it - the goose eggs and shutouts, but we have to worry about the mistakes we made and all the penalties we had," Johnson said.

Cornerback Paul Oliver was on the sidelines on Alabama-Birmingham's final drive with defensive reserves Byrd, Miller and Darius Dewberry in the game.

"We said if they got to the 20-yard line (the starters) were going to go back in," Oliver said.

Alabama-Birmingham didn't have to see Georgia's first unit again.

"They ran to the ball well, and they've got a bunch of good athletes," said UAB running back Dan Burks.

"I'd have to say they're the best defense I've gone against in my four years in college."