Georgia might be the new king of the mountain.
The No. 3 Bulldogs were able to pick apart the Tigers’ defense thanks in a large part to the play of the defense, which recovered three fumbles and didn’t allow LSU to get any sort of ground game going in Georgia’s 45-16 win.
“We had two weeks to for LSU,” said defensive back Thomas Davis, who finished the night with eight tackles, two forced fumbles and a shared sack. “We did nothing but focus on LSU. ... We had doubts about how good we really were, but we know we have some great players. We just put it all together.”
Both of Davis’ forced fumbles led to 10 points as Georgia took a 24-10 halftime lead. The Bulldogs allowed just one first down in the Tigers’ first six possessions, all of which ended with a punt or a turnover.
By the time LSU got its second first down, Georgia was ahead 24-0.
The Tigers did start to adjust midway through the second quarter. As the Bulldogs’ offense sputtered a bit, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell was able to lead the Tigers to two straight scores, an 18-yard touchdown pass and a 31-yard field goal at the buzzer to cut Georgia’s lead to 14 points at halftime.
“We had some miscommunication on defense,” Davis said. “They caught us with some bad passes. But we came back in the second half.”
Defensive end David Pollack credited defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder with the Bulldogs’ recovery after halftime.
“He was mad with our second-quarter lapses,” Pollack said. “We came out hard in the second half. If we had listened to the man ? and coach VanGorder is the man - we’re going to be successful.”
But head coach Mark Richt was pleased with the overall performance.
“Our defense continually gave us opportunities, and we took advantage of most of them,” he said. “When they had a lapse, we talked about Purdue (in last year’s Citrus Bowl) and how we got up 24-0 and let them come back and make us win in overtime. The men accomplished what we wanted them to at the start of the game. They got the momentum back; they started the second half like the first. We told them to pretend like it was 0-0 and get the momentum back.”
One of the Dogs’ main sparkplugs was linebacker Odell Thurman, playing in his first game of the season after a three-game suspension. Thurman finished with eight tackles, including 2 * for losses, a sack and a fumble recovery. “My first game back, it feels pretty good,” Thurman said. “I wasn’t really rusty. I’ve been practicing every week.”
Said Pollack: “You can’t replace Odell. He’s going to be a great NFL player.... He brings a lot to the table.”
Overall, Georgia held LSU to 103 yards less per game than it averages. The Tigers, who averaged 188.5 yards rushing coming in, managed only 67 yards on 29 attempts.
“Georgia’s defense is pretty good,” Russell said. “They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and they do a good job of mixing up their blitz and zone coverages. They really did a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback.”