ATHENS - When Fernando Velasco took over for Max Jean-Gilles in the second quarter of Saturday's…
Offensive Linemen Looking for Redemption
Lots of people in Athens are thinking about the No. 3 Bulldogs' showdown against No. 13 LSU on Saturday in Sanford Stadium, but none more than Georgia's offensive linemen. Last year, the Bulldogs famously gave up 47 sacks, by far the most in the conference, and the Tigers had 10 of those in two games.
"This basically is the game of the century," guard Max Jean-Gilles said. "It's like the Super Bowl of college football for us. If we stop this team, we know we're one of the elite teams in the country."
LSU had four sacks in the teams' first meeting last year and its defensive linemen and linebackers deflected nine passes. In the SEC Championship Game, the Tigers tallied six sacks and their front four knocked down four more passes. The Bulldogs didn't rush for more than 100 yards in either game, averaging 2.6 yards per carry.
Georgia has solidified its offensive line protection this year thanks to a year of seasoning and a few position changes. The Bulldogs have given up three sacks so far, tying with Florida, Arkansas and Kentucky for the fewest in the league.
"We think we've made improvements," offensive line coach Neil Callaway said, "but this is where we'll find out what we've got."
The Tigers lost defensive tackle Chad Lavalais (seven sacks) and defensive end Marquise Hill (five sacks) from the defense that terrorized the Bulldogs last year, but they haven't stopped harassing quarterbacks. They lead the SEC with 11 sacks.
"Pretty much, it's the same team, same blitzes, everything," Jean-Gilles said.
Defensive end Marcus Spears, who had six tackles, four pass deflections, a sack and a forced fumble in two games against the Bulldogs last year, is back and is a candidate this season for the Nagurski, Hendricks and Lombardi awards. Also, linebackers Lionel Turner and E.J. Kuale each have two sacks.
The Tigers are known for their array of blitzes and how often they use them, a reality proven by the fact that Tiger safety LaRon Landry leads the league with three sacks this year.
Unlike a year ago, the Bulldogs feel they are prepared this season to recognize all the different looks they will get and react accordingly. That's only half the battle, though.
"It's all going to boil down to 1-on-1 matchups at some point," Callaway said. "You're going to have to win those 1-on-1 matchups."
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