Dawgs Drill LSU

BATON ROUGE – Twenty-four hours before kickoff, Darryl Gamble didn't know if he would even be in the starting lineup against LSU. Twenty seconds into the game, the Tigers were wishing he hadn't.

Filling in for injured starter Dannell Ellerbe, Gamble picked off LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee's first pass of the game and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown, sparking a scoring barrage that didn't end until he crossed the goal line again late in the fourth quarter to cap a 52-38 Georgia win.

"It was crazy when that happened," cornerback Asher Allen said of Gamble's opening interception. "It was kind of surreal, but everybody tried to build off that momentum, and he certainly set the tone for the game."

Head coach Mark Richt was expecting Ellerbe to play Saturday, but the senior linebacker informed the team Friday afternoon that his injured knee was still bothering him. That opened the door for Gamble to start his third straight game at middle linebacker, and the sophomore responded with 13 tackles and two interceptions – both of which he returned for touchdowns.

In between, Georgia's young offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, clearing the way for Knowshon Moreno and the rest of Georgia's ground game to rack up 194 rushing yards against a stout LSU defense. It was defining performance for the line that features two sophomores and three freshmen.

"We've been hearing it all year, but especially this week with how many seniors they have up front," left tackle Clint Boling said. "I think they felt they were going to come in and beat us up front, but we did a good job of blocking them."

It was a coming-of-age game for the Bulldogs across the board after the team failed to post an impressive win in either of its past two victories.

Against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, Georgia turned in strong performances on both sides of the ball, but thanks to red-zone miscues, dropped interceptions and various missed opportunities, the final scores hardly reflected the Bulldogs' successes. Against LSU, it all came together.

"We're a young football team all over," said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who completed 17-of-26 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. "We needed to do a good job of executing, but that just takes time. We were just waiting for it to all click."

It all clicked Saturday, and the offense responded by scoring 52 points – the highest total by a Georgia team in four years – in a stadium that was supposed to intimidate, irritate and frustrate the young Bulldogs.

Instead, Georgia looked like accomplished veterans, silencing the second-largest crowd in LSU history with one big play after another.

Moreno ran for 163 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown, Stafford connected with A.J. Green for a 49-yard score in the second half, and Georgia's defense was routinely one step ahead of the Tigers' game plan.

"They kind of showed a little bit of what they were going to do, and we had a key of whether they were going to pass it or not," Gamble said. "We pretty much knew what they were going to do before they ran or passed the ball."

Leading up to the game, Richt said he wasn't concerned about earning style points with voters. He just wanted wins. Behind the offensive fireworks and the big-play defense, Georgia was able to do both against LSU.

With a battle against Florida looming and control of the SEC East hanging in the balance, Boling stopped short of calling Saturday's win a statement game, but said it was a crucial building block for the team.

"I thought we'd come out and win, but I didn't know what the score was going to be or how many points we'd put up," Boling said. "I think this is a good step to where we want to be right now, and hopefully we can build off this next week and get the win against Florida, too."

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