David Greene dropped back, Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson went deep, and Greene fired long pass after long pass. The offense eventually worked itself into the kind of rhythm it displayed in a 45-16 whipping of the Tigers.
The week leading up to today’s game against No. 17 Tennessee (3-1, 1-1 SEC) has called for a little more variety. The No. 3 Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0) knew LSU's defense was going to play almost exclusively man-to-man defense on the perimeter.
“Last week, we could just about predict we were going to get some kind of man coverage,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “(Tennessee) pressures very much the same, just not quite as often. Tennessee does a better job of mixing their coverage.
“I guess we just have to wait and see how they want to play the game.” Tennessee cornerback Rosin Fellows, one of two freshmen expected to start for the Volunteers, is predicting lots of zone.
“I would say it would be zone, because if we are in zone, we have help,” he said.
The Volunteers’ secondary has needed some help this year. Tennessee is last in the SEC and 92nd in the nation in pass defense, giving up 244.2 yards per game through the air.
Junior safety Jason Allen leads the league in tackles (43), but he is the only upperclassmen who will start in the secondary. Last week against Auburn, the Volunteers gave up 16 plays of 20 yards or more. They gave up 21 plays of that distance all of last season.
Still, Volunteer defensive coordinator John Chives said he saw improvement.
“I saw Rosin Fellows taking a step to play the way he needs to play at corner,” he said. “I saw Jason Allen being more comfortable at safety.” Experience is the only thing lacking in the secondary, Chives said.
“Some of the things we can call for them and help them out, but some of the things they have to adjust to on the field,” he said.
Tennessee linebacker Kevin Brunet said his team’s front seven will have to help the secondary.
“Watching Georgia against LSU and watching them against South Carolina, really the difference between those two games was pressure on the quarterback,” he said. “LSU probably has one of the best secondaries in the country, but if you don’t get pressure on the quarterback, it’s hard to win. If we don’t get pressure on the quarterback, it’s going to be a long day for us.”
To get pressure on the quarterback, the Vols probably will have to blitz, which will mean some one-on-one matchups for the Bulldogs.
“They do play a good bit of man coverage in their schemes,” Richt said. “(Chives) has been coaching it the same way for a long time. They believe in what they do. I’d guess the percentages will be about the same, so there’ll be some opportunities to take some shots.”
Richt sounds hopeful when he talks about Tennessee playing man coverage. The Bulldogs’ passing game struggled against zone defense in the first three games of the season.
If the Volunteers leave both of their safeties back in pass coverage, the Bulldogs will turn to bruising runner Danny Ware. He averaged almost five yards per carry against LSU, even though the Tigers brought their safeties up to support the run. Richt rates the run game as the second most important factor in today’s game, behind only turnovers.
“I’m not the coach, but I’m sure we’ll take advantage of the situation,” Gibson said. “I’m sure Coach Richt has a plan to help us win the game no matter what defense they play.”