Georgia Sleepwalks to another victory

ATHENS - Thank goodness Georgia has the Florida game at the end of this week.

One more of these unranked, overmatched opponents might do it in. For the second straight week, the No. 4 Bulldogs struggled against a team they were supposed to smash, this time sneaking past UAB 16-13 on Saturday.

Last week it was Vanderbilt, which led 2-0 at halftime before succumbing 27-8.

"Just take the transcript from last week's game, and I'll say ditto," Coach Mark Richt said to open his postgame remarks.

The Blazers, despite deploying freshman quarterback Chris Williams for his first collegiate start in front of 92,058 fans in Sanford Stadium, proved a tougher foe than the Commodores. The Bulldogs (7-1) didn't secure the win until the 1:54 mark of the game when Williams' rushed pass to Bradly Chavez fell incomplete.

"Our players fought. They had to fight to win," Richt said. "I'm sure everybody expected more on the scoreboard, but I don't think you can expect more of our players as far as the effort they gave and the fight they showed. They did what they had to do to win."

Whether it will be enough to beat the No. 25 Gators is another question.

"You would think we would have to play a lot better," Richt said.

Georgia, 4-1 in the conference, can go a long way toward clearing its path to the SEC title game with a victory over Florida, which has won 12 of the last 13 in the series. If the Bulldogs beat the Gators (5-3, 3-2 SEC), they would then only have to win one of their two remaining league games to win the SEC Eastern Division title.

"As soon as we got off the field, it was Florida Gators all the way," said kicker Billy Bennett, who hit three field goals and one extra point to become the school's all-time leading scorer. "The intensity level is going to be through the roof this week."

It hasn't seemed to be that way the last two weeks, although Richt said he "didn't see anybody loafing out there." Something was different, though.

"I don't think the team has been real hyped up like we usually are," defensive tackle Ken Veal said. "I have to admit we played a little flat today."

Georgia looked sharp early, scoring on its first drive to go up 7-0 with 10:10 left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs increased the lead to 10-0 on a 48-yard field goal with 14:54 left in the first half, but the Blazers (3-5) responded with the most surprising drive of the season. UAB took the ball at its 25-yard line with 14:49 left in the half and drove 75 yards on 18 plays, 16 of which were runs, to pull within three at 10-7 when Theron Dudley scored on a 1-yard run.

Coming into the game, the Bulldogs had the nation's No. 1 defense and were the only team in the country to have given up just one rushing touchdown.

The drive took 9 minutes, 45 seconds, which was almost two minutes longer than any drive Georgia had given up all season and the second longest against the Bulldogs in school records dating back to 1972.

"One big drive by them and all of a sudden things change dramatically," said defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who said his team's tackling was below par.

UAB tied the game with a 27-yard Nick Hayes field goal on the final play of the half and took a 13-10 lead on a 47-yard Hayes' kick with 9:52 left in the third quarter.

Georgia tied the score when Bennett hit a 29-yard field goal with 3:31 left in the third quarter and took their final lead when Bennett connected from 31 yards with 12:57 left in the game.

The game was far from over at that point. On UAB's last drive of the game, it moved to Georgia's 32-yard line, close enough for a tying field goal, before a sack by Derrick White on second down knocked the Blazers back 11 yards. Georgia forced Williams, who finished the day 12 of 21 for 97 yards, to throw two rushed incompletions to seal the victory.

"I think our guys realized, 'Hey, the ball game is on the line. We better decide it right now,'" VanGorder said.

Georgia's offense struggled for the second straight week, compiling just 337 yards, its lowest total of the season. Quarterback David Greene was 20 of 33 for 221 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and Michael Cooper led the rushing effort with 79 yards on 14 carries.

"I'm concerned without question," Richt said of his offense.

Greene, though, said he thinks the Bulldogs can pull it together in time for Saturday's game against the Gators.

"We have a lot of confidence," he said. "We know what we can do. It's just we're not doing it right now. We just have to start making plays again. We just have to get it started, and hopefully it will snowball."

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