CLEMSON, S.C. - Call them the Limping Dogs if you will. Or, the Suspended Dogs. But, don't call them the Dead Dogs.
Despite eight players on suspension and 10 others out with injuries, Georgia showed it's still among the nation's elite as it put a 30-0 whipping on Clemson here Saturday afternoon.
The 11th-ranked Bulldogs, coming off a 13-1 season and their first Southeastern Conference championship in 20 years, handed Clemson coach Tommy Bowden his first shut out ever in this, his seventh season as a head coach. It also marked the first time the Tigers had been blanked at Memorial Stadium since 1998 when Virginia Tech beat them, 37-0.
Following that season Bowden succeeded Tommy West as head coach of the Tigers and now it is the current Tommy who finds himself on the hot seat.
The shut out and margin of victory may have come as a surprise, but the win itself was expected by those in the Georgia camp.
"We have some guys missing," Georgia defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder said, "but we still have good football players at Georgia. We, as a staff, never panicked.
"We never worked in a panic mode. We felt good about the group we had. The way we work we never had time to worry about. Again, you have to understand we have good football players. Our players never got caught up in the talk about who we didn't have. They stayed focused and poised."
Said defensive lineman David Pollack, whose fourth-quarter interception ended the Tigers' last real scoring chance: "Things happen. We started to have a lot of injuries and we were like, 'What's going on?' because guys kept falling. But we don't doubt ourselves. We can control what we can control."
David Greene completed 12 of 17 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown as Georgia had 411 yards total offense. The Bulldogs rushed for 222 yards with Tony Milton gaining 59 on 14 carries and Ronnie Powell adding 57 on 17 attempts. Fred Gibson had four catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
And kicker Billy Bennett, the most accurate kicker in the SEC last year, had three field goals and three extra points to push his career total to 290 points, third best in Georgia history. Kevin Butler has 353 and Hershel Walker 314.
"It was a solid performance," said Coach Mark Richt. "I liked the way our running backs ran the ball, and for a rookie bunch the offensive line did OK. I thought the defense did a great job."
The Georgia defense limited a Clemson team which expected to be very good offensively to 199 yards, only 35 on the ground on what was a major disappointment for Bowden. The Bulldogs are now 9-0 on the road under Richt, and it marked his first shutout as a Georgia coach.
"No turnovers and great defense," Richt answered when asked about the lopsidedness of the score. "But it seemed like it was 13-0 nothing for a long time. I know for sure there were times we missed assignments and didn't put a hat on the right man, but when we look at it (on tape) I think we'll find that when we did it right we were pretty good."
The Bulldogs, who did not have any turnovers and came up with three, scored on their first two possessions, tacked on two field goals in the middle quarters and then turned it into a rout with two fourth quarter touchdowns.
Clemson's goal all through preseason was to establish a running game, something it was not able to do against a Georgia defense anchored by David Pollack. The Tigers started the game with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst falling on a fumbled snap at the 35.
Although Georgia didn't convert the miscue, it seemed to set the tone for the day. Clemson stalled on its next possession and the Dogs took over after a punt on their 20-yard line to get started toward all the points they would need.
It came when Greene and flanker Fred Gibson teamed on a third-and-2 play for a 56-yard touchdown pass with 9:21 left in the first quarter. Gibson spun off the bump of Clemson cornerback Justin Miller, who led the ACC in interceptions last season, and found himself wide open over the middle.
"I think their corner guessed a little on that play," Richt said. "A lot of times in short yardage we'll run a little hitch, and I think that's what he was looking for, and we just outguessed him with the slant."
After Bennett kicked the first of his two first-half field goals, Clemson appeared to be ready to get back in it when it drove to the Georgia 4-yard line late in the half to set up a call that left Bowden and Tiger fans howling.
On fourth down, after a time out, Whitehurst handed the ball to Duane Coleman on what appeared to be a sweep around the right side. Coleman stopped and threw the ball back across the field to a momentarily open Whitehurst.
However, Robert Geathers came running to catch up and as the ball arrived the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Geathers appeared to either bump or face guard Whitehurst. The ball fell incomplete and there was no interference call.
"I kept my eyes open," Geathers said. "When they called the time out we talked about what they might do. We know Coach Bowden likes to run trick plays and we tried to be prepared for anything they might do.
"As to interference I don't think there was any. I think was just a great play by me."
Afterwards Bowden defended the call, saying he believed a touchdown would do more for his team than a field goal.
"I felt we had a shot at a touchdown," Bowden said. "And I felt a touchdown would pick us up more than a field goal. It was my call all the way. As to whether or not it was interference, well, that's an answer you can hardly go right on."