Dawgs Try to Get Mean vs. North Texas

ATHENS - After opening with two straight top-10 opponents and returning from a week off, Georgia has a chance to fine-tune some things defensively against its next opponent before welcoming another nationally ranked SEC rival to town.

Looking to continue their home dominance over unranked non-conference foes, the ninth-ranked Bulldogs face North Texas on Saturday.

Following a season-opening 38-35 loss at No. 3 Clemson and a gritty 41-30 home victory over then-No. 6 South Carolina on Sept. 7, Georgia welcomed the bye week with a chance to reflect on facing top-10 opponents in back-to-back games for the first time since October 1998.

"We know it's a long season, we just have to keep working," said Aaron Murray, among the national leaders with a 194.8 passer rating after throwing for 309 yards and four touchdowns against the Gamecocks.

While Murray and the offense have totaled 1,081 yards, including 449 on the ground, a Bulldogs defense that lost seven players to the NFL draft in the spring is still finding its way. Though it's only through two games and against elite competition, Georgia (1-1) ranks second-to-last in the SEC in both points allowed (34.0 per game) and total yards allowed (460.5).

"We're still trying to figure it out as a group," coach Mark Richt said. "Some guys have got it figured out better than others and some guys are still struggling just to line up right. It'll take time. To get two games under your belt and (then) an open date, it's going to be helpful for those guys."

The Bulldogs do have some budding talent in junior linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, two of the SEC's top tacklers.

Plus, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham felt his unit gained some confidence from limiting South Carolina to six second-half points and making a key goal-line stop in the fourth quarter.

"I think you saw improvements in individuals in the last game, relative to the first game, and I think what we've got to do is continue to build on that," Grantham said. "If you do that, you've got a chance to hold guys to low numbers and win the ballgame."

Bulldog defenders would appear to have a good chance to improve their recent play in this first-ever meeting with North Texas (2-1) before hosting No. 6 LSU "between the hedges" Sept. 28.

Georgia has won 41 straight home games against unranked non-conference opponents since an 11-7 loss to Southern Mississippi in 1996. The last six such matchups have been decided by a combined 310-83 score.

North Texas scored 95 points this year versus Idaho, Ohio and Ball State, but has been outscored 232-27 by LSU and Alabama over its last five games against ranked SEC opponents.

The Mean Green are 1-43 all-time versus Top 25 schools, including 34 straight losses since defeating San Diego State in 1974.

They overcame an 11-point halftime deficit at home to Ball State last Saturday by scoring 18 second-half points en route to a 34-27 victory.

"There's a lot of grit on this team," coach Dan McCarney told the school's official website. "The seniors want to be remembered for turning this program around."

Senior Derek Thompson is completing 70.9 percent of his passes to rank among the nation's leaders, throwing for 818 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also scored the go-ahead TD on a 26-yard run with 9:47 remaining in the fourth quarter versus Ball State.

Though the Mean Green are third in Conference USA at 465.0 yards per game, they are giving up an average of 435.7 to rank near the bottom of the league.

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