ATHENS, Ga. — If Georgia is going to have better success against a South Carolina defense that has held the Bulldogs to a combined total of 19 points the last two years, Ian Knight may have to deliver the best game of his career.
Knight, in his first season as Georgia’s starting center, will be asked to lead the blocking effort against South Carolina nose tackle Langston Moore.
Georgia coach Mark Richt says Moore “single-handedly stuffed our run’’ in the Gamecocks’ 14-9 win over the Bulldogs last season in Athens. That effort came against a veteran Georgia center, 2001 senior Curt McGill.
Moore blocked a field goal attempt and had six tackles last year. Because Knight is the least experienced member of Georgia’s all-senior offensive line, the matchup with Moore is a key.
“I actually talked with Curt the other day,’’ Knight said Tuesday. “Curt was like ‘Man, I know what he did to me last year.’ He gave me some tips, but the guy handled us last year.’’
Already this season Moore (6-2, 290) has nine tackles, a quarterback sack, an interception and a caused fumble in two games for South Carolina.
“I really don’t think there's a better nose guard in the country,’’ Richt said. “To play that scheme that they play, their nose guard has got to be a man. ... He threw around our center last year. This year, from what I can see, he’s in better condition than he was last year.’’
Added Knight: “He might be the best player I face all year. It’s definitely going to be a battle. I’m looking forward to it.’’
Richt said Knight earned a grade of “maybe a C at best’’ against Clemson. Knight will need help from guards Kevin Breedlove and Alex Jackson against Moore.
False praise: South Carolina coach Lou Holtz already has said Georgia has the best receivers, best punt returner (Damien Gary) and best offensive line in the nation.
Based on a disappointing effort by the offensive front in the season opener two weeks ago, Richt almost choked Tuesday when asked about the comments. “Oh, no,’’ Richt said, before adding with a smile “I respect Lou Holtz.’’
Asked again specifically about the suggestion from Holtz that Georgia has the top offensive line in the nation, Richt said “Like I said, I respect Coach Holtz. He’s a good man.’’
Challenge to Smith: Though tailback Musa Smith enjoyed an encouraging debut with 23 carries for 105 yards, and he experienced no pain in his return from a lingering groin injury that shortened his 2001 season, his longest run against Clemson was only 10 yards.
“Musa has to be more of a force,’’ Richt said. “Musa has got to break tackles.’’
Richt noted that Smith was lifted off the ground too often at the end of his runs.
“How are you going to run over a safety if you’re off the ground?’’ Richt asked. “He has to finish his runs.’’
Richt also said fullback J.T. Wall “has to finish his blocks.’’
Remembering 9-11: The Georgia athletics department will hold a memorial service today at 9 a.m. for staff members as everyone’s thoughts will be on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“This game is extremely important to us and the outcome of the game is extremely important to us and everybody who loves the game,’’ Richt said.
“But in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that important when you talk about national security and you talk about lives being lost and lives being risked to maintain our freedom. There’s no comparison.’’