Richt: Offensive Fireworks No Surprise

Mark Richt

ATHENS – Three months ago, Mark Richt saw this coming.

It just took two months for him and his team to get there.

Eighth-ranked Georgia finally is playing offense the way its coach thought it would, having scored more than 40 points three straight weeks for the first time in 65 years.

"I will go back to what I said preseason," Richt said. "I felt like the second half of the season we'd be a whole lot better than the first half of the season, and I think that's kind of what's going on."

The Bulldogs (8-2, 5-2 SEC), who take on No. 22 Kentucky (7-3, 3-3) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, have gained 1,295 yards in their last three games, their best three-game stretch since early in the 2005 season. What pleases offensive coordinator Mike Bobo the most is the balance of those yards, 679 through the air and 616 on the ground.

"Once you get a little momentum and confidence a lot of great things can happen," said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has thrown for 671 yards in the last three games, the best stretch of his career. "When we get going, we can put up points in a hurry."

The Bulldogs' three-game average of 43.7 points per game would lead the SEC and rank fourth in the NCAA if they had sustained it for the season. Georgia is sixth in the conference in scoring (32.8 yards per game) and seventh in total offense (383.4 yards per game).

The only statistic the Bulldogs have dominated consistently this year is red zone efficiency. Georgia leads the nation in red zone offense, scoring on 94.9 percent of its trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. It's 11th in the country in red zone touchdowns at 71.8 percent.

Experience is one factor in the recent improvement. Big plays are the other.

In the first seven games of the year, Georgia had 16 offensive plays of 25 or more yards for a total of 536 yards. (Take away the Ole Miss game and that number falls to 11 for 365 yards.) In the last three, they have had 12 such plays worth 563 yards.

"Throughout the years I've been here, we've always had the guys with the ability to make the big plays that we've been making this year," senior running back Thomas Brown said. "We just haven't produced it on the field. Potential by itself is not enough. We have to come out and produce. Guys are just being more relaxed this year and stepping up and making plays when their numbers are called."

Until the Florida game three weeks ago, the Bulldogs had one pass play longer than 35 yards. Since, they've had three of greater than 50. It's those passes that have made the biggest difference, Richt said.

"If you take away the deep balls, we've had a lot less offense," he said. "That's strictly by the numbers. Also, we would not have loosened up defenses enough to run the ball as well as we have. Being able to go deep has opened up a lot of things for us."

Richt's hope is that next season the offense doesn't take so long to find its stride, and there are reasons for optimism in that regard. Georgia's offense starts three seniors and only 36.2 percent of its yardage has been gained by graduating players.

"It's not like there is going to be a mass exodus from the offensive unit, and we're going to finally have experience where you want to have experience (on the offensive line and at quarterback)," he said. "On paper, the future looks good."

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