One day after his offense impressed no one in a 13-3 victory over Marshall, Georgia’s head coach predicted greener pastures ahead for his Bulldogs. And he admitted that’s something he never could have done a year ago.
“We’ve got the same type of potential the 2002 offense did,” Richt said. “Last year, I really think we were just fighting for our lives. This year, we have the potential to get a whole lot better.”
The No. 3 Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) have failed to score a touchdown in five of their last eight quarters and have averaged 16.5 points in the last two weeks, leaving them in the bottom half of the SEC in scoring.
On Sunday, Richt said he sees a similarity between this unit and the 2002 that group that averaged 250 yards in its first two games but went on lead the league in scoring and win the conference title. That offense had its breakout, confidence-building game against Alabama, Richt said.
This time, they’ll have to do it against No. 13 LSU (2-1, 0-1) on Oct. 2 in Sanford Stadium or risk ruining their national championship hopes. That’s basically the same LSU team that held Georgia to an average of 11.5 points in two games last year on the way to winning the national championship.
“We’re going to have to pick up our level of play to compete with a team like them,” center Russ Tanner said.
The game was expected to be a battle of the Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the country, but the Tigers fell 10-9 to Auburn on Saturday after missing an extra point. LSU plays Mississippi State at home this weekend, while Georgia has an open date.
“They look like they have a tremendous defense and are going through some growing pains on offense,” Richt said. “It’s going to be something.”
Georgia will spend a lot of its down time working on its running game. The Bulldogs had only two plays of more than 25 yards against Marshall, and it was because the Thundering Herd never feared Georgia’s running game, Richt said. The Bulldogs averaged .9 yards per carry in the first half.
“We were not able to really puncture them with the running game on some of their softer coverages and make them think, ‘We’ve got to get more people on that line of scrimmage,’” Richt said.
The anticipated return of starting tailback Danny Ware from a bruised lung will help that. True freshman Thomas Brown probably will get a chance to contribute more, too, since he’s expected to move up on the depth chart after leading all rushers with 81 yards against Marshall.
“(Ware and Brown) have shown some really strong flashes of being good runners, and they haven't hurt us at all picking up the blitz,” Richt said.
The offensive problems have been different each of the last two weeks. Against South Carolina, it was missed assignments. Quarterback David Greene said the Bulldogs missed more than 40 offensive assignments against the Gamecocks. Against Marshall, Georgia shored up some of its mental errors but lost the physical battle too often.
“Our hats got on the right people most of the time, but we didn’t get as much movement as we’d like,” Richt said. “Max Jean-Gilles got movement. (Daniel) Inman did a pretty nice job. Nick Jones was pretty good, but the rest of the guys didn’t get a lot of movement.”
Richt was particularly disappointed with his fullbacks, starter Jeremy Thomas and reserve Des Williams.
“They did a good job of getting on their assignments, but you need to do something once you get there,” he said.
Still, Richt is optimistic all his group’s problems can be fixed, he said.
“We are very close, that’s the good news,” Richt said, “but we don’t have much time to get better.”