ATHENS, Ga. - Dannell Ellerbe watched all of Western Carolina quarterback Todd Spitzer's hand signals, but that only made him more confused.
As Spitzer panned over to the Catamounts sideline to get the upcoming play, Ellerbe would swivel his head from side-to-side as he attempted to verbally reorganize his linebacking corps.
And that's where the problems began for Georgia's second level of defense.
Perplexed by the Catamounts' new no-huddle offense, Georgia's linebackers had numerous breakdowns in the first half of a 45-16 win. When messages were mixed, it appeared as if the Bulldogs' defense was tossed around by a smaller team.
What was a modest 6- or 7-yard gain for tailback Mike Malone could be a significant chunk of yardage for Alabama freshman tailback Terry Grant if the defensive issues aren't shored up by next week.
"They had a little bit of a mental edge on us and we came out pretty flat to start," middle linebacker Marcus Washington said. "They went no huddle on us and we were stumbling around trying to get the plays in."
The Catamounts exploited a jumbled rotation of seven linebackers in controlling the ball for 11:17 in the second quarter.
A linebacker's version of musical chairs was no excuse for poor play, said linebacker Akeem Dent, who made his first start in place of senior Brandon Miller.
To the defense's credit, the Catamounts only had three field goals and an after-the-fact touchdown against the third string.
"I thought they played well early on in the game," defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "I don't know what they did as far as stats, but they gave the offense a good chance to get the ball back."
The stats were there: Dent and Miller led the team in tackles with six. The unit's cohesion, however, didn't consistently materialize.
"The guys need to communicate better as a team, and we were all just kind of messed up and we were just all bent on one person and one focus," Miller said.
Reach Ryan Lavner at firstname.lastname@example.org