Inside Slant - Off week for the Dawgs

TheInsiders' Inside look at the Georgia Bulldogs this week.

Georgia fans may be complaining about the Bulldogs' sluggish offensive start this season, but coach Mark Richt is trying to keep it all in perspective after hearing all about Auburn's 10-9 victory over LSU last week.

"I guarantee you're not complaining about a low-scoring game," Richt said.

"As a matter of fact I saw (Auburn) Coach (Tommy) Tuberville look really happy with a 10-9 win. I'd feel the same way if that happens to us in the next couple of weeks."

That doesn't mean Richt is willing to stand pat with his offense, as the third-ranked Bulldogs take an open date to prepare for next week's home game against No. 13 LSU. It just means Richt isn't going to overreact to Georgia's offensive concerns, including its shortcomings in the red zone.

That's because Richt has been here before with the Bulldogs. They got to a slow start in 2002 before getting on the right track and finishing as the SEC's top scoring team, with 32.1 points per game, on the way to the league championship.

"I think we've got the same type of potential as the 2002 offense did," Richt said. "Last year, I really think we were just fighting for our lives. This year, I think we've got a chance to get a whole lot better."

With only three offensive touchdowns in the past two games, Georgia is seventh in the SEC and 52nd nationally with 27 points per game.

"We're very close, that's the good news," Richt said, "but we don't have much time to get better because the competition is getting tougher than it was."

NOTES, QUOTES

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on only 51 percent of their red-zone possessions last year and wanted to improve on that stat this season, but it's not happening. Georgia has scored six touchdowns in 12 red-zone chances this year. Andy Bailey is perfect on six field goal attempts from the red zone, or else things would be even worse. "You look back on the red zone the last two years, it's just the same thing over and over," coach Mark Richt said. "Plays have presented themselves and we haven't made them for whatever reason. We get the heebee jeebees down there."

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Bulldogs allowed Marshall just 160 total yards, with just 37 rushing yards, the lowest rushing total given up by the Georgia defense since last season's opener against Clemson. The defense carried the offense in the Marshall game, and the defense might have to continue to form the foundation for this team.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "People kept looking to this game and I've always kept saying 'I'm hoping it's a big game when we get there because if it is a big game we're both undefeated at this point.'" I'm thankful that we are at this point. LSU may be more dangerous now than they were before." -- Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team plays LSU in its next game on Oct. 2. LSU dropped from fifth in the national polls to 13th after losing 10-9 at Auburn last week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: The No. 3 Bulldogs get an open date this week to work on their red zone offense and prepare for an Oct. 2 showdown with LSU.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB-PR Tyson Browning -- The coaches love to see Browning in open space with the ball in his hands, but not if he's dropping it. Browning leads the SEC and is 15th in the nation in punt returns with 15.9 yards per return, but he's fumbled four times in the past two games, twice on punts. If Browning isn't careful, his role will diminish.

MLB Odell Thurman -- Thurman will return from a three-game suspension against LSU. Thurman, who made 125 tackles last season, missed the first three games after violating team rules during the summer. He's practiced with the second- and third-team the past month, but the open date should help him prepare for his first game action of the season. "I think he's got his skills in pretty good shape," coach Mark Richt said.

ROSTER REPORT: Richt didn't play backup quarterback D.J. Shockley at all against South Carolina and only one series against Marshall, but he's hinting all that could change against LSU in two weeks. "I'll have a plan. I can promise you that," Richt said. "I'm not going to let the whole world know." ...

Georgia continues to search for the right starting tight end after sophomore Leonard Pope struggled against Marshall, dropping a touchdown catch in the end zone and picking up a penalty for a false start. Pope replaced Martrez Milner when Milner struggled against South Carolina, but the starting job is wide open again. "I think you can say, it's safe that it's going to be up for grabs every week," Richt said. ...

DT Kedric Golston (hip) and TB Michael Cooper (bruised thigh and bruised shoulder) will both benefit from this week's open date and will most likely be back in time for the LSU game. TB Danny Ware, who missed the Marshall game with a bruised lung, will sit out during full-contact work this week so he can return to full-speed practice next week. ... Reserve OG Josh Brock (shoulder-chest) won't play against LSU, so the coaches are seriously considering redshirting him if he does not play soon.

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