Thurman Looks to Step up Against Auburn

Odell Thurman

ATHENS - Odell Thurman found himself Saturday in the unusual position of having to defend himself following a 62-17 victory.

"I didn't do great, but I didn't play real bad," Odell Thurman said after Georgia improved to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the SEC by demolishing Kentucky. "I did all right."

Thurman was on the defensive because defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder put the spotlight firmly on him while calling out his entire defense after the game.

"Odell has to play better football for us," VanGorder said. "The last two games he just hasn't been up to par."

Asked what was wrong with Thurman, VanGorder responded, "That's a good question to ask him."

The No. 8 Bulldogs better get answers to all their defensive questions quickly. They play No. 3 Auburn (9-0, 6-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised by CBS.

"Auburn's the team in the SEC to beat now," Thurman said.

The Bulldogs' offense could be hampered in the game because the availability of starting tailback Danny Ware is uncertain. Ware sprained his ankle and knee recovering his own fumble against Kentucky. The ankle injury is more serious than the knee injury, Coach Mark Richt said.

"I don't know how bad everything is," Richt said. "I don't know what to say other than it'll be day-to-day on him."

Still, it's the defense that will be the question mark heading into the Auburn game. Georgia gave up 344 yards to Kentucky, which entered the game last in the nation in yards per game (259.2). That came on the heels of the season-worst 458 yards the Bulldogs surrendered against Florida.

"I see it as we are a little fatigued," Richt said. "I think that has to do with the season and the wear and tear, and it might be that we haven't had the depth we'd like at certain positions. The guys just might be tired. It's been a pretty long stretch."

Richt predicted VanGorder's assessment would be different and more technically based, but, immediately after the game, VanGorder was right in line with his head coach.

"Slow," he said when asked to describe his defense. "We're just not playing Georgia defense right now."

Not having safety Thomas Davis contributed to that against Kentucky. Davis remains questionable due to ankle and knee sprains. Mary Persons native Tra Battle had six tackles last week in place of Davis. Thurman and Danny Verdun Wheeler led the Bulldogs with eight.

"I'm not playing as well as I think I should play," Thurman said, "but I'm still going to work hard and something will pan out."

The Bulldogs might back off some on the contact this week in practice in order to give their defense some rest, but no final decision has been made.

Georgia certainly won't be as rested as the Tigers, who had an open date last week. Last season, it was Georgia that had an off week before this game while Auburn played. The Bulldogs built a 26-0 lead and won 26-7.

"We were fresh (last year), no doubt about it," Richt said. "It can make a difference certainly, especially this time of year. Right now we're just grinding it out, and we hope we have enough good momentum to finish out the game."

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