Georgia Domination Likely To Continue

FAYETTEVILLE - First time in the Razorback Stadium press box upon the return to Arkansas in 2000, we watched as Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter and the Bulldogs strutted, hand-in-hand, onto the field.

During Jim Donnan's last season, the Bulldogs fielded guys like split end Terrence Edwards, right tackle Jon Stinchcomb and running back Jasper Sanks to augment the speedy Carter. On defense, Georgia sported giant hosses like tackles Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour and end Charles Grant along with super cornerback Tim Wansley.

The season prior, I'd seen most of those guys while covering Purdue. The Boilermakers and Bulldogs battled in the 2000 Outback Bowl down in Tampa and we watched Georgia overcome Drew Brees and a 25-point deficit to win 28-25 in overtime.

Purdue outgained Georgia 528 yards to 397 and it was clear the Boilermakers were gaining ground on teams like the Bulldogs.

Close as Arkansas got in 2000 was zip-zip and that didn't last long. The Bulldogs snatched a Robby Hampton pass, returning it into the end zone on the game's first play. Georgia went on to a yawning 38-7 win and the Hogs still haven't caught up.

Seventh-year Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has the best record of Western Division programs since his arrival and he's beaten every Southeastern Conference team except Florida and Georgia. The last two close calls against the Gators show that gap has narrowed dramatically.

Not so against Georgia.

In Mark Richt's first season, the Bulldogs whipped Arkansas 34-23 (a late Hogs rally made the score somewhat respectable) in Athens in 2001.

The only other time the teams have met between then and tonight's matchup in Razorback Stadium was in the 2002 SEC Championship Game.

The No. 4 Bulldogs swallowed the Hogs' first punt, scored two seconds later (a Musa Smith 2-yard run), then yapped through a 30-3 mauling in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Georgia had 25 first downs to Arkansas' 12 and outgained the Hogs 381 yards to 139.

Not a great time for that one as No. 22 Arkansas wasn't expected to be there and because it was the Hogs' 11th consecutive game.

That outcome was understandable, if not exactly predictable.

The all-time Arkansas-Georgia series is not so one-sided. The Bulldogs lead 6-3, but it was tied at 3-3 through 1993. The UA wins in the series include the 16-2 Sugar Bowl victory (1969), the 31-10 Cotton Bowl whacking (1976) and the 20-10 upset in Athens in 1993.

But what of Georgia's domination since 2000?

"I tell you what, the time we played them in the championship game, I felt like we were pretty beat up," Nutt said. "I don't know that it made a difference, because they dominated.

"They still have more athletes than we do. We're catching up. We're in a situation where you've got to have all 85 scholarships (NCAA sanctions have hurt the Hogs the past few years).

"It's a tough situation to win a game as it is, especially against Georgia, when you don't have all your bullets."

Might take mortar shells against these No. 10 Bulldogs that Nutt calls "a great Georgia football team." Nutt compares the Dawgs to Auburn, which put a 38-20 whipping on the Hogs last week. Senior quarterback David Greene can pick folks apart, flanker Fred Gibson's as dangerous as it gets and the defense, anchored by All-America end David Pollack, has the potential to collar anybody.

Timing has been a problem against Georgia the last couple of times around. In 2002, explosive Hogs running backs Cedric Cobbs and Fred Talley sat out. Tonight's Arkansas scenario is no different as the Hogs are coming off a shellacking and they're missing a starting offensive lineman (Zac Tubbs) and, more than likely, their top TD scorer (running back Peyton Hillis). Best receiver Steven Harris is doubtful, speedy running back Dedrick Poole is out, starting left tackle Tony Ugoh has been weakened by a kidney stone and starting cornerback Michael Coe probably won't play.

Toss in the situation with do-everything quarterback Matt Jones, who may or may not be able to run through the pain of the groin injury suffered last week, and this could get ugly in a hurry. If Jones doesn't go, Arkansas won't get anywhere.

Speaking of timing, the stunningly slow starts (against Georgia the past two meetings and at Florida and Auburn the last two games) must stop tonight if the Hogs are to hang around at all.

Arkansas closed its practices this week. Nutt may have something up his sleeve, but we're not sure what it could be at this point. Maybe the Hogs have been running lots of option stuff with backup quarterback Robert Johnson. Could be they've installed several trick plays. Perhaps Hillis and Jones are moving more than Nutt wants the Bulldogs to know.

None of that is particularly worrisome to Richt. But one thing is: A hot Hogs start, particularly in front of the home crowd.

If the Hogs get on an early roll?

"It'd probably be awful," Richt said.

But if they sputter from the get-go, it probably will be awful for the outmanned Hogs against Georgia yet again.

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