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Cool, Calm, Collected - Georgia's David Greene
"The one thing that helps you more than anything else is you have a quarterback who has played well on the road," Richt said. "The quarterback's the guy that tends to get rattled."
David Greene never seems to get rattled.
The junior is 49-of-72 for 678 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions this season. He's third in the SEC in both passing yards (226.0 ypg) and passing efficiency (160.9).
"I think he's probably one of the best quarterbacks in the country, arguably the best quarterback in our league based on what he's accomplished to this point," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "He makes good choices and decisions."
Greene has thrown 139 consecutive passes without an interception, dating to the 2002 Auburn game. He is on pace to top Eric Zeier's school record of 2.64 interception percentage. Greene currently stands at 2.19, with 17 interceptions in 775 attempts.
"He's as good a decision-maker and he's as accurate as anybody I've coached," said Richt, who has coached two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks (Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke) and one Super Bowl winner (Tampa's Brad Johnson). "You're not going to get much better than him." The accuracy is a product of several things, Richt said, including physical talent, composure and experience.
"His vision is expanding," Richt said. "He's seeing the bigger picture. He sees the opening, knows the receiver is about to be there and throws it a little earlier."
It's foolish to play soft coverage against the Bulldogs because Greene is accurate enough to complete passes in tight spaces, Saban said. Trying to pressure Greene into mistakes is not such a good idea either, South Carolina coach Lou Holtz said.
"Greene played the best game I've ever seen a quarterback play," Holtz said of the quarterback's performance in Georgia's 31-7 win over the Gamecocks. "I've never had anybody pick out blitzes the way he did, and we had a lot of them disguised."
Greene's teammates have come to appreciate his attitude as much or more than his talent and his work ethic.
"You want your leader to be calm," wide receiver Reggie Brown said. "It's soothing. If he's calm, it makes you feel like everything is going to be all right."
In the two most pressure-packed moments of his tenure - the final drive against Tennessee in Knoxville two years ago and on fourth-and-15 in Auburn last year - Greene hasn't flinched, his teammates said.
Against the Vols, the Bulldogs trailed 24- 20 when they took possession of the ball with 42 seconds left on their own 41-yard line.
"He never raised his voice," wide receiver Damien Gary said. "He just came in and said, 'Guys we're about to score.'"
Georgia did, winning the game with a 6-yard pass from Greene to fullback Verron Haynes with five seconds remaining.
Last year's game against Auburn was even more tense. Georgia trailed 21-17 and faced fourth-and-15 from the 19-yard line with less than two minutes left. Making that play meant winning the SEC East, missing it meant Florida would win the East and all the Bulldogs' season-long momentum would be crushed.
"He just said, '70-X takeoff, let's go get it,' and that's pretty much what we did," said wide receiver Michael Johnson, who caught the decisive touchdown pass on the play. "He's never nervous, just very laid back, pretty much like ice water."
Greene said there are no secrets to his demeanor - no yoga or chanting or mental exercises. It's all preparation, he said.
"When you got out there and see what you think you're going to see it gives you confidence to attack the game," he said.
Greene's play is starting to speak loudly enough to draw national notice. He is one of six players leading ESPN.com's Heisman Trophy poll, along with Wisconsin running back Anthony Davis, who's now injured, Michigan running back Chris Perry, N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers, Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones and Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning.
"Greene just never seems to make the big mistake and could become a bigger player in this Heisman race before long," according to ESPN.com.
Georgia hasn't decided yet if it will run a full-fledged Heisman campaign for Greene, senior associate athletic director Claude Felton said. The Bulldogs probably won't have to do much. Saturday's game will be Georgia's second of the season in CBS' marquee 3:30 p.m. time slot and at least five more other games this year should be on national television.
"Obviously it's flattering for your name to be mentioned with the word, but it's not something I think about much," he said.
That wouldn't be his style.
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