Georgia offense peaking after slow start

David Greene (Photo: Dean Legge)

In posting a 48-17 win over Vanderbilt and a 52-14 win over Kentucky, Georgia has posted some big combined offensive totals. <p> Most points since 1946<p> Most yards since 1993

ATHENS, Ga. - If 20 years seems like a long time since Georgia last won a Southeastern Conference championship, that's only a blink in time compared with how long it had been since the Bulldogs scored on the pace of the last two weeks.

In back-to-back wins over Vanderbilt (48-17) and Kentucky (52-24), Georgia scored the most combined points in any consecutive games for the Bulldogs in 56 years and produced the most combined total offense (1,135 yards) since 1993.

Suddenly, No. 5 Georgia (8-0 overall, 5-0 SEC) leads the conference in scoring with 34.4 points per game, and it is fifth in the conference and 40th in the nation in total offense only two weeks after it ranked 11th in the SEC and 94th in the nation.

The lopsided wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky have put at least a temporary end to questions about the offense that dogged the team through the first half of its schedule, and it provides confidence that Georgia can overcome a recent rash of injuries on offense when it plays Florida Saturday at 7:45 p.m.

"The offense is starting to come around,'' said quarterback David Greene. "This is really how we were hoping to look from the start. We just have to keep getting better.''

The records show Georgia had not scored as many as 100 combined points in back-to-back games since 1946, when it beat Oklahoma A&M 33-13 and then trounced Furman 70-7.

The last two games mark only the ninth time in school history that Georgia has reached triple digits over a two-game span.

Meanwhile, the 1,135 total yards were the most in two games since Georgia combined for 1,187 yards in back-to-back big wins over Southern Miss and Vanderbilt in 1993.

Senior receiver Terrence Edwards didn't know the statistical history, but he knows that in his time in the program - or when watching older brother Robert Edwards (1993-97) - he has not seen the offense more productive.

 "I don't think so,'' said Edwards, who has caught 12 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns the last two weeks. "I can't remember any time where we put up 100 points.''

The numbers put up by Georgia the last two weeks would not cause more than a ripple in the Florida State records over Coach Mark Richt's 15 years as an assistant coach with the Seminoles, including the last seven years as offensive coordinator.

Richt's Florida State offense finished among the nation's top five in scoring five times, and his 2000 offense ranked first in total offense first in passing offense and third in scoring.

"Coach Richt always tells us he has seen championship practice and we weren't really doing that at the beginning of the year,'' Edwards said. "Now he sees we're getting there to the way Florida State used to practice when they were the best team.''

Richt says he likes what he is seeing, but he is not ready to call the last two games an established trend. If the offense continues to put up big numbers against Florida, Mississippi and Auburn and Georgia clinches its spot in the Dec. 7 SEC championship game, then Richt's guarded evaluations might turn into more generous praise.

"Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come,'' Richt said. "I really was thinking we were capable of this type of performance from the start. Hopefully (the last two games) is not a blip on the radar screen.''

Georgia managed only 13 points in a win over South Carolina. It produced only 62 yards rushing with two rushing first downs in a win over Tennessee. It ran only 56 plays while beating New Mexico State.

In those games and others, defense and special teams played lead roles. But in the two years with Richt as head coach, when the offense is posting Florida State-like totals, Georgia wins.

When Georgia scores 30 or more points with Richt on the sideline, it is 12-0. When it posts at least 400 yards of offense, it is 9-0.

No one is expecting Georgia to average 50 points per game in November. But now there is a feeling that the offense is hitting stride at the right time of the season.

"It's feeling good,'' said quarterback D.J. Shockley, who has returned from his broken foot to complete 17 of 23 passes for three touchdowns with one interception the last two games.

Greene has six touchdown passes with no interceptions and has completed 36 of 55 passes for 570 yards the last two weeks.

Richt says he knows better than to think the strong play of the offense will end concerns from the fans about a two-quarterback system.

"No, I think the first time something doesn't go right, that will be the reason we didn't win,'' Richt said.

"Some people just don't think (quarterbacks) can co-exist like that.''

Richt says it is important to build depth at quarterback, just like any other position, to keep the offense moving in case a player is lost ith an injury.

Last week the offense was without receiver Fred Gibson, tailback Musa Smith and offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb due to injuries.

The Bulldogs have lost receiver Damien Gary for at least the rest of the regular season due to a leg injury, but some other injured players have returned on offense.

Smith has enjoyed a good week of practice and should start. Stinchcomb has returned to team work the last two days and should play Saturday. Gibson is still questionable with his thumb injury but will travel and be in uniform, Richt said Thursday.

Florida has been vulnerable to a strong running game, but it ranks eighth in the nation against the pass in what should be a match of strength against strength. Georgia has 783 yards passing the last two games.

Said Shockley: "Coming into the season we knew we had the offense that could do that. We weren't  really clicking on all cylinders.

"Now it seems like we are peaking at the right part of the season. It makes us feel good to know we can go out there and move the ball and score points."

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