Coop and Browning take over

ATHENS – Mark Richt didn't plan it this way, and it certainly does not get the attention rotating quarterbacks does, but Tyson Browning and Michael Cooper stepped up Saturday night in Georgia's 20-16 win over South Carolina.

"Cooper ran the ball well and played physical for us Saturday night," said Richt. "Tyson was out there making people miss."

Richt was forced to start rotating Tyson Browning and Michael Cooper when starting running back Danny Ware left the game after spitting up blood in the sideline. Ware will not play this week against Marshall, which means Cooper and Browning will be at it again this Saturday.

"Rotating the two of them makes the defense think," said Richt.

Neither of the two running backs appeared to be gaining on Ware in terms of playing time. But when the freshman went out of the game for good it put Richt in an awkward spot at tailback.

At the start of fall camp Kregg Lumpkin was knocked out for the season with an ACL injury. Tony Milton was moved to fullback for the South Carolina game to back up Des Williams because of the suspension of starting fullback Jeremy Thomas. Cooper, the leading rusher for Georgia last season, was as low as fourth string tailback in fall camp-- due, at least in part, to missing practice due to injuries injuries. Browning concentrated on punt returns and receiving more than a starting tailback usually would. Thomas Brown, a true freshman, was not available for the South Carolina game because of injury.

So there Richt was, down 16-0 in Columbia, a nightmarish place for the Bulldogs in the past, with his starting running back out of the game for good. He was forced to rely on two players no one thought he would have to.

In fact, there was some chatter earlier this season that Cooper could not be depended upon at all because of his performances in practice. However, Richt dismissed that notion simply stating: "Michael plays better when the stadium lights are on, but we have never been unpleased with him."

Richt indicated that blocking and route running are also things that tailbacks get graded on, not simply running the ball – an asset for Cooper.

"I'm not sure which one of them will be the starter this week," said Richt. "But they will both play."

Hopefully for Richt, they will do as well as they did last weekend.

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Inside the numbers: Cooper and Browning pack a punch

Combined for 115 yards on 24 carries

Last season Cooper and Browning were part of a running back committee that had 1,889 yards, the most for a Bulldog team in the last eleven seasons.

2003 Stats:

Cooper

156 attempts, 709 yards, and six touchdowns

Browning

78 attempts, 314 yards, and two touchdowns


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