Individual milestones within reach
Musa Smith is on the brink of 1000 yard season
Musa Smith is on the brink of 1000 yard season

Posted Nov 21, 2002


ATHENS, Ga. — When Musa Smith thinks of the tailbacks who have fallen short of 1,000 yards rushing the last 10 years, he shakes his head.

The list includes Robert Edwards, who would rush for 1,000 yards as a NFL rookie in 1998. It includes 1998 Super Bowl MVP and three-time All-Pro Terrell Davis, who led the NFL with 2,008 yards rushing in 1998 and led the AFC in rushing two other years.

Other notable Georgia backs who couldn’t reach 1,000 yards in recent years include Olandis Gary, who reached the milestone in his 1999 NFL rookie season with Denver, Torin Kirtsey, Jasper Sanks, Verron Haynes and Patrick Pass. In the 2000 season, Georgia’s leader — Brett Millican, with 375 yards — didn’t even reach 400 yards rushing.

Since Hearst rushed for 1,594 yards and finished third in the Heisman voting in 1992, no Georgia back has reached 1,000 yards. Edwards was the closest, with 908 yards in 1997.

Now Smith has 952 yards rushing as he prepares for the Nov. 30 final regular-season game against Georgia Tech. Though he says his focus is on beating Tech and then winning the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 7, he did not hesitate when asked about the significance of rushing for 1,000 yards.  

"It just means a lot,’’ Smith said. "In the last 10 years, how many backs have been through here? A lot of good backs. To get that 1,000-yard mark is going to feel real good.’’

Barring injury, Smith is a lock. The SEC championship game has always counted in regular-season stats. For the first time this year, NCAA regular-season stats also will include bowl games.

Smith wants to reach the mark against Tech. Though this has been a 12-game season, he missed one game with a broken thumb and so would be hitting 1,000 yards in what for him has been an 11-game season. Smith’s 2001 fight with a lingering groin injury makes this year’s success more significant.

"A lot of people had doubts, saying I was injury prone,’’ Smith said. "They wondered if I would ever last to the end of a season.’’

There are other personal milestones to be won:

Receiver Terrence Edwards already has the Georgia career records for receptions, receiving yards, touchdown catches and games with 100 yards receiving. Now Edwards is only two touchdown catches away from the SEC career record of 31 set by Florida’s Chris Doering (1992-95). That record seemed out of reach when Edwards suffered a separated shoulder against Mississippi and missed last week’s win over Auburn. The senior made a surprise return to practice Wednesday and has a chance of playing at least a limited role against Tech.

Receiver and return specialist Fred Gibson could reach a milestone the first time he touches the ball against Tech — perhaps on the game’s opening kickoff. Despite missing the Kentucky and Florida games with a thumb injury, Gibson has 981 all-purpose yards, including 580 yards receiving and 407 yards in kickoff returns. (He lost six yards on his one carry of the season against Clemson.)

Senior linebacker Tony Gilbert is aware that he trails fellow senior Boss Bailey by nine tackles in the chase for the team lead. Gilbert has claimed top honors the last two years and would be only the second player, following Ben Zambiasi (1975-77), to lead the team three straight years. Gilbert now has 91 stops; Bailey leads with 100.

"I’ll take being behind Boss,’’ Gilbert said. "We’ve been through so many things. Just to get 100 and be in the 300 club (for career tackles) would be a plus for me.’’ Added Gilbert: "As long as we keep getting more trophies, I won’t feel bad at all.’’

Gilbert already has passed the 300 mark to move into Georgia’s top 15 career tackles leaders.

David Greene has thrown 20 touchdown passes this season, four behind Eric Zeier’s Georgia record of 24 in 1993 and 1994. Twice this season Greene has passed for four touchdowns in a game — against Kentucky and Northwestern State.

Defensive end David Pollack leads the SEC with 11 sacks, 28 quarterback pressures and 19 tackles for loss. In addition to playing for those honors, Pollack is two sacks away from the Georgia single-season record of 13 set by Mitch Davis in 1993.

"Of course you think about stuff like that,’’ Pollack said. "You’re human. But it really isn’t about an individual. It isn’t about a stat. It’s a matter of who is winning.’’

Terrence Edwards: SEC career TD receptions record At 29, is two away from Chris Doering’s mark

Fred Gibson: 1,000 all-purpose yards Now has 981

Tony Gilbert: Georgia tackles leader 3 straight years, Trails Boss Bailey by nine tackles

David Greene: Georgia record for TD passes in a season With 20, 4 behind Eric Zeier

David Pollack: Georgia sacks record With 11, is two shy of Mitch Davis’ mark set in 1993

Musa Smith: 1,000 yards rushing At 952 yards, Smith seems to be a lock

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    WR Chris Doering (profile)
    FL Terrence Edwards (profile)
    SE Fred Gibson (profile)
    MLB Tony Gilbert (profile)
    QB David Greene (profile)
    DE David Pollack (profile)
    RB Musa Smith (profile)
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