ATHENS, Ga. - Mark Richt can already hear the postgame questions if his Georgia offense puts up big numbers Saturday against Northwestern State.
There have been suspicions that the offense's struggles in the first two games might be related to the new two-quarterback rotation. Since the broken foot suffered by D.J. Shockley puts at least a temporary end to the rotation at quarterback, Richt knows that having David Greene again as the lone leader of the offense could lead to some easy conclusions if the offensive drought ends.
"If we do well, they'll say 'Well, that was it,' '' Richt said.
Shockley is expected to miss four to six weeks after having surgery Tuesday on his left foot. That ends the two-quarterback system at least until the Oct. 12 game against Tennessee.
Richt does not believe the quarterback rotation is to blame for problems which kept the offense out of the end zone in a 13-7 win over South Carolina last week and limited the unit to only one touchdown drive longer than three plays in a 31-28 win over Clemson.
"No matter which quarterback was in the game, I don't think had any bearing on whether Terrence (Edwards) hangs onto the ball or Musa (Smith) hangs onto the ball or Tyson (Browning) hangs onto the ball,'' Richt said.
" ... I personally don't think the fact two guys were playing is why all those things happened.''
Fumbles and dropped passes are only a small part of a long series of frustrating breakdowns for the offense. Even when Georgia opened strong with a 52-yard pass to Fred Gibson last Saturday, a stronger throw from Greene would have allowed Gibson to catch the ball in stride and score an easy touchdown.
With Northwestern State, a I-AA school from Louisiana, following the tough games against Clemson and South Carolina, there is a great expectation that Georgia could double its disappointing average of 250 yards per game. That average has Georgia last in the Southeastern Conference and 111th in the nation in total offense.
The spotlight will be on Greene to lead the resurgence.
"Our pride is hurt right now,'' Greene said. "We're licking our chops to play another game because we feel we still haven't proved ourselves. We think we have a good offense and we want to prove it.''
Greene has given way to Shockley in each half of the first two games. This week he probably will stay in the game unless Georgia builds such a big lead that Richt turns to Cory Phillips, the senior who now is back in his old role as the No. 2 quarterback.
Greene admits "It's everybody's goal to play the whole game.'' Even so, he doesn't agree with those who think he should be more comfortable on the field because he won't always be looking over his shoulder while wondering when he will be pulled from the game.
"I didn't feel like that before,'' he said. "Obviously, you want to be in there every series, but it's unfortunate how D.J. got hurt. It's terrible he broke his foot.''
Added Greene: "Just like before, when I'm out there, I'm just going to do the best I can.''
Greene has completed 23 of 40 passes for a respectable 57.5 percentage, but through two games he has only 236 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception.
In seven games last year, Greene passed for more yards than his two-game total this season.
"I'm trying to get to the point where we can really open the (offense) up, but it's tough to open it up when you just can't execute just the basic things you're trying to do,'' Richt said.
"We want to be able to run, we want to be able to use the play-action pass and throw some high-percentage throws. We're just not doing it.''
NOTES: For the first time since he was fired as head coach following the 1995 season, Ray Goff will be on the field at halftime Saturday as players and coaches from the 1962, 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1992 teams return for reunions.
Goff will stand with players from his 1992 10-2 team.
Offensive tackle George Foster had the pins removed from his surgically repaired wrist Wednesday, and doctors were encouraged he is on schedule to return earlier than the first estimate of 12 weeks. Foster now is shooting for the Oct. 12 Tennessee game.
Richt said it is possible freshman defensive end Marquis Elmore will make his debut this week. "I can't make any promises,'' Richt said.
As feared, receiver Kirby Towns suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Tuesday.
Charles Odum is the beat writer for Dawg Post in Athens. He has over 20 years of experience covering Georgia football. He can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com
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