Lingering Doubts on Offense

ATHENS - Who knows how last week's Florida game might have turned out had Georgia scored a touchdown to take the lead on its final drive of the first half in the Southeastern Conference game.

The No. 9 Bulldogs (7-2, 4-2 SEC) looked ready to do just that when they had a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line. Then the breakdowns started.

On first down, a player who was supposed to go in motion forgot, and Michael Cooper was stuffed for no gain. The next play, the Bulldogs were flagged for a false start, backing them up to the 14-yard line. Georgia then called a timeout to regroup but on the next play running back Kregg Lumpkin lined up on the wrong side of a shotgun formation and left David Greene wide open for a vicious Travis Harris sack.

The result was a third-and-goal from the 21-yard line, and the Bulldogs had to settle for a field goal on the way to 16-13 loss.

"Those are the little things that are keeping us from being great," Greene said.

Georgia had 24 first downs and 390 yards against the Gators but barely managed to get double digits in points.

"What that tells me is we're pecking away at people, but what we're missing more than anything is the big play," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "That's been the biggest problem."

In the three games since Georgia's 41-point, 414-yard effort against Tennessee, it has just seven plays of more than 20 yards. The result of that has been long drives and more opportunities for drive-killing mistakes like the ones against the Gators.

"We may have fewer big plays than I can ever remember," Richt said.

Georgia is third in the SEC in first downs (187) and second in third-down conversions (45 percent) but is tied for last in touchdowns (25). The Dogs have just two touchdown plays of more than 30 yards this season.

The reasons for the lack of explosion vary, but the blocking of the offensive line is the most noticeable. Georgia has allowed a league-high 29 sacks. On the Bulldogs' first two pass attempts against Florida, Greene was sacked for a loss of 15 yards.

"Some of the things I wanted to do to take shots down the field were going to take more protection," Richt said, "and we weren't protecting very well at the beginning."

Said senior receiver Michael Johnson: "Without our line, we can't get anything started. It's the time of the season now we can't say they're young anymore. We have to get the job done. They have to man up and learn from their mistakes. There are no more excuses for it."

Offensive line coach Neil Callaway said his unit has "obviously made some boo-boos" but added, "I think we're OK."

There are other concerns.

Senior tight end Ben Watson wondered aloud this week about his role. He led the team in catches against Tennessee and UAB but caught just one pass against Vanderbilt and none against the Gators.

"I have to get a better plan for him," Richt said. "I think that's enough said on that."

Some receivers who are getting chances aren't converting. Drops have hindered the Bulldogs all season, including against Florida, when Fred Gibson dropped three critical passes.

"I stayed in the house the whole day (Sunday) I felt so miserable," Gibson said. "(But) it's not like it's a thing I can't come back from."

The combination of young linemen and running backs, and sporadic pass catching have caused Greene's numbers to plummet. He has thrown eight interceptions in the last six games and is ninth in the SEC in passing efficiency (127.4). Last year, he led the league (137.3) on the way to being first-team All-SEC.

"He's had to learn to work with his line and to trust his line," Watson said. "It's been pretty tough on him, but I think he's doing a good job. He's still David, and I have faith in him."

Greene's 188 yards against the Gators were his lowest total of the season, but he said he's satisfied with his performance and feels like he's a better quarterback this year than in his first two seasons. He added he's not concerned about the whispers of "slump."

"If it's Coach Richt saying it, then I'd be worried," he said.

The Bulldogs will use their off week to try to get back in an offensive rhythm, Richt said. Georgia plays Auburn on Nov. 15.

"To get some of our timing back with our skill players, I think that will go a long way," Richt said.

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