The man who grew accustomed to topping the national offensive charts as an assistant at Florida State has his Bulldog offense zipping along at an almost unprecedented pace, and it feels good. He’ll admit that much.
“Yeah, you do” have more fun, he said.
But that’s all you get. Georgia is on pace to have its second-best offensive season in history and its best under Mark Richt, but nowhere will you find this quote: “Man, we’re scorching some behinds out there.” Nor will you find anything like it.
The No. 4 Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) lead the SEC and are 18th in the country in total offense. They are second in the league in scoring, first in passing and second in rushing.
Still, Richt is much more likely to answer questions like, “What’s wrong with the red-zone offense?” or “Why can’t your receivers catch the ball?” than “How’d it feel to put 405 yards on Tennessee, the nation’s 16th-best defense?”
“I think what happens is, because I’m in the middle of it, because I call the plays, I’m not real quick to praise what goes on on offense because I feel like I don’t want to talk good about what I’m involved in,” he said. “It’s very easy for me to say, ‘The defense is doing awesome, the special teams, man they’re great.’ Then on the offense I’ll say, ‘Well, we’ve got a long way to go or whatever.’
“In God’s word, you’re not supposed to brag about anything really.” So Richt will always find the flaws and take the blame and bite his tongue if he ever gets the urge to say, “Hey, what about us?” He’ll do all this knowing it only feeds into a perception, which has been accurate in the past, that the Bulldog defense is always pulling his fat out of the fire.
“If I talk about the nitpicky things (on offense) that I see, that I know can be better, then that usually bleeds into the conversation and the thoughts and minds of the media, and those are the things that get talked about and written about,” he said. “If I come in after a game and say, ‘We were awful in the red zone, it’s just so frustrating,’ that’s what everybody is going to write about for a month. I think that has something to do with it, I really do.”
Sure enough, this week, Richt answered a red-zone question that wasn't entirely unwarranted. The Bulldogs score touchdowns on just 50 percent of their trips inside an opponent’s 20-yard line, the third-worst percentage in the SEC.
What that stat doesn’t reflect is that Georgia has made more trips to the red zone than all but two teams in the league, or that Alabama, the only other unbeaten team in the conference, has scored touchdowns on just 47.8 percent of its red-zone trips.
Most of the numbers for Richt’s offense don’t have to explain themselves, though.
Georgia is averaging seven yards a play, which will be a school record if it holds up. It is averaging 454 yards and 32.2 points per game. The Bulldogs haven’t averaged more than 405 yards in the last three years, and they’ve only topped 30 points a game once under Richt.
“The unity and oneness on this offensive team is by far the best we’ve had,” offensive coordinator Neil Callaway said.
The offensive line that Callaway coaches is a large reason for the large numbers, quarterback D.J. Shockley said.
“I think it all starts with our offensive line,” he said. “Our offensive line is a group that is very, very motivated and takes what it does very, very seriously.”
The Bulldogs have given up only eight sacks this year, fewer than all but two SEC teams, and Shockley leads the league in total offense and pass efficiency. Only 12 passers in the nation can top his 156.0 rating.
Arkansas, which Georgia plays at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, is 11th in the SEC and 96th in the country in yards allowed. A matchup against numbers like that may have Richt positively skipping by Monday morning.
“It feels good,” Shockley said, “to move the ball up and down the field.”
Richt thinks so, too. He just doesn’t want to come right out and say it