#1 Dawgs Open Up With Blowout Win

Posted Aug 30, 2008

ATHENS – Georgia’s win came relatively easily Saturday. The offense racked up impressive numbers, the defense appeared stout, but cornerback Asher Allen hung his head in the locker room after the game.

The Bulldogs won their season opener 45-21 over Georgia Southern, leading by as many as 38 points in the second half, but a late touchdown capped what Allen deemed a disappointing day.

“It was a sloppy win today,” Allen said. “I just think that we can’t win the games we need to win playing how we played (Saturday). Some people did good, some people did bad, but it’s a team game, and we need everybody to play good.”

Head coach Mark Richt wasn’t quite as concerned.

Richt had plenty of questions about his team coming into the game, and by halftime, a majority had been answered.

The Bulldogs defense pitched a first-half shutout, while the offense steamrolled to a 38-0 lead with six minutes to play in the third quarter.

Freshman wide receiver A.J. Green hauled in a 36-yard pass on the first drive of the game, setting up the first of three Knowshon Moreno touchdowns, while freshman kicker Blair Walsh hit a 52-yard field goal and was perfect on extra points.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford set a career high in passing yards with 275, including a 61-yard bomb to Kris Durham for a score, and running back Caleb King racked up 95 yards rushing, all in the second half.

“I wanted to us to get our feet wet,” Richt said. “I wanted us to see what kind of team we had. I wanted to get the victory. We accomplished what we needed to accomplish (Saturday), but we do have a long way to go.”

Despite the win, Richt echoed Allen’s worries over an occasionally shaky performance.

The Bulldogs finished the game with 11 penalties, including several offside calls.

“Some of it was guys just anxious to make a play,” Richt said. “Part of it is you really can’t simulate another team’s snap count very well. Until you play them, it’s hard to get used to.”

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the game was the strength of the offensive line.

The unit came together quickly in preseason camp following a season-ending injury to starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, and helped the offense excel Saturday.

Despite four first-time starters, Georgia was able to throw for 323 yards and run for another 212. The line did allow two sacks, both of which Stafford chalked up to strong coverage by Georgia Southern’s secondary.

“Two hundred-some yards rushing and 400 yards passing,” left guard Vince Vance said, “it’s a good day. It’s just not a great day.”

The Bulldogs started as if it would be a great day. Stafford’s completion to Green set up a score on Georgia’s first drive. The defense held throughout the first half, including a goal-line stand as the first quarter came to a close. Stafford then opened the second quarter the bomb to Durham, and the Bulldogs rolled to a 38-0 lead.

After that, Richt said, the Bulldogs let their guard down, and Georgia Southern scored three of the game’s final four touchdowns.

“In the second half, it got a little bit sloppy,” Richt said. “After the game got to be 31-0, it just seemed to be that we lost some kind of luster, some kind of energy level I wish we could have maintained.”

Part of the problem, defensive tackle Geno Atkins said, was the heat on the field, which reached into the 90s. It was much warmer than the conditions Georgia had practiced in the previous weeks, and the effects were clear.

“During the second half, I think we let up a little bit and lost our composure,” defensive tackle Geno Atkins said. “It was hot outside, our guys were tired. The past week it had been cool, it was raining, and we just weren’t used to that.”

Making matters worse, Georgia may have lost Atkins’ linemate Jeff Owens, who left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury.

Still, the Bulldogs began their quest for a national title by looking every bit the part of a No. 1 team for the first three quarters. While that won’t be enough against a stronger opponent, Allen said, it was a good step forward.

“A win’s a win,” Allen said, “but our team is capable of doing a lot more.”

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