Georgia offense lacking in red zone, third downs

Georgia continues to have problems converting third down opportunities and is ranked ninth in the league in red-zone production.

ATHENS, Ga. — Concerned about Georgia's lack of production on third downs, Coach Mark Richt and his staff got serious.

"We did this big in-depth study last week on it and thought of ways to improve it,'' Richt said.

The result?

"It just didn't get any better,'' he said Tuesday.

GEORGIA RED-ZONE STATS

Times inside the 20 Total Scores TDs FG No points
19 14 (73.7%) 9 (47.4%) 5 (26.3%) 5 (26.3%)
In fact, Georgia made the first-down yardage on only 1 of 11 third-down plays in an otherwise impressive 26-24 victory over Tennessee last Saturday.

For the season, Georgia has converted only 28.3 percent of its third-down opportunities to rank 10th in the Southeastern Conference. 

Meanwhile, Georgia ranks ninth in the league in red-zone production — the success in scoring once inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

The bad news for Georgia as it prepares for this Saturday's 2 p.m. ET game at Vanderbilt is the disappointing rankings — a reflection of missed assignments — shows there still much work to be done, and that was the theme of a long practice Tuesday.

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS

Conversions Attempts Pct. SEC rank
15 53 28.3 10th
The good news for Richt is the statistics show that 19th-ranked Georgia (3-1 overall, 2-1 SEC) still has much room for improvement, even though it already is a respectable fourth in the league with its average of 28.5 points per game.

"If we can just keep getting better, we have a chance to be a really good football team,'' Richt said Tuesday in what ranks as perhaps his most optimistic statement of the season.

But first the offensive deficiencies must be addressed.

The Tennessee game was perhaps the best example of the best and worst of Richt's wide-open, no-huddle offense.

Most impressive was the fact the offense could deliver the game-winning, 59-yard scoring drive in the final seconds as a devastating counter-punch to Tennessee's go-ahead score with 44 seconds left to play.

Georgia covered the 59 yards with such apparent ease that Tennessee fans have spent the last three days in an all-out assault of Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer, defensive coordinator John Chavis and the Vols' prevent defense.

To have won the game in such convincing manner, Georgia's inability to convert third downs was a mystery.

"I think sometimes that's where the no-huddle kind of hurts you a little bit,'' said center Curt McGill. "You kind of go full speed for two plays in a row and bam, it's third down before you know it.''

Richt said he found 10 missed assignments — "things that can drive you batty'' — on Georgia's first two drives against Tennessee.

"More times than not, it just has to do with just normal execution,'' said Richt. 

"I still don't believe it's any kind of a scheme problem or we're calling the wrong play. For whatever reason, we're a little snake-bitten because of somebody not doing their job properly on those downs.''

Added Richt: "If we convert 40 percent of our third downs, we'd have a lot more points and a lot more yardage and everything else. We have to get a lot better at that.''

Charles can be reached at CEOdum@aol.com.


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