Offense hoping to match defense

ATHENS -- Georgia's defense has been so good this season it's even making things tough for its own offense. The No. 4 Bulldogs lead the nation in total defense and have set a standard on that side of the ball that makes the offense's hiccups resound all the more loudly.

"I'd definitely like to get our offense up there, too," quarterback David Greene said. "We've still got a long ways to go, though."

The Bulldogs are third in the conference and 35th in the country in total offense (408.5 ypg) and fifth in the conference in scoring offense (29.7 ppg).

"Our defense is probably the best in the nation if you ask me, but any defense is going to need some help from the offense eventually," tight end Ben Watson said. "We have to step up and do our part."

The Bulldogs have shown signs of doing that in three of their last four quarters. Georgia scored 30 points in the first half against Alabama and then put a complete game together against Tennessee, scoring 41. Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs were last in the SEC in touchdowns scored with 11. Now they are tied for seventh with 20.

"I had confidence we were eventually going to show what we could do, but we were definitely frustrated because we weren't playing as well as we could play," Greene said.

Georgia's biggest problem in the first four games of the year was inconsistency caused by youth, injuries and simple mistakes such as dropped passes. As the offensive line gets older, the young running backs pick up more blitzes than they miss ("I didn't see any situation where the backs hurt us [against Tennessee]," Coach Mark Richt said.), and the receivers get healthier and start catching the ball (one drop against Tennessee), Georgia's offense seems to be getting better and better.

"We're still growing," Richt said. "We're still learning how to play consistently."

The Tennessee game was by far the offense's most workmanlike performance. They Bulldogs have just two touchdown drives of more than 11 plays this season; both came against Tennessee. They also converted seven of 13 third-down conversion attempts with Greene in the game against the Vols. Four of those conversions came after a penalty or a sack had pushed Georgia back at least 5 yards.

"That is the sign of a strong offensive team, to overcome a holding call or a call after a big run," Richt said. "You're going to make mistakes, but, if on third down, you overcome them the great majority of them, you're going to move the ball and score points."

The Bulldogs have spread the ball around more in the last two weeks. After touching the ball on just three carries in the first four games of the season, starting fullback Jeremy Thomas has three carries for 12 yards and three catches for 74 yards in the last two games. Backup fullback Jamario Smith of Mary Persons touched the ball twice in the first four games. In the last two, he has five touches (three carries and two catches), including a 10-yard touchdown reception.

"For a while there, I forgot what the ball looked like," Thomas said.

Georgia also has gone to the tight end more. Starter Ben Watson has eight catches in the last two games, which is equal to the number all the team's tight ends had in the first four games.

Running back Michael Cooper, Georgia's leading rusher with 332 yards and one of five backs with 25 or more carries, said the Bulldogs have much more in terms of play-calling package and potential.

"(The Tennessee game) is just half of what we can do," he said.

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