Not What You Might Think

ATHENS - Mark Richt vs. Marshall. The matchup brings to mind images of balls flying through the air and receivers flying into the end zone. But today's game between Richt's No. 3 Georgia team and the traditionally pass-happy Thundering Herd could be decided by the defenses.

"You think about offense when you look at Marshall," Mark Richt said, "but their defense is outstanding."

Marshall ranks 25th in the nation in rushing defense (72 yards per game). Troy, which rushed for 172 yards against then-top 25 Missouri, gained just 65 yards on 42 carries against the Thundering Herd. Ohio State rolled up 220 rushing yards against Cincinnati then gained 79 the next week against Marshall.

"The thing that caught my eye was the speed," Richt said. "There are no fatties on that defense."

The Thundering Herd starts seniors all across the defensive line and at all three linebacker spots. The most disruptive of those is defensive end Jonathan Goddard (6-0, 245). Goddard has a team-high 19 tackles, including three for loss.

"He's not the biggest guy in the world, but (David) Pollack isn't either," Richt said.

The comparison to Pollack must seem like the highest of praise to Marshall coach Bob Pruett, who this week said Pollack might be the best college defensive player he has seen since Bruce Smith.

Marshall safety Chris Royal leads the nation in interceptions with four, and he's not even a regular starter. The secondary member the Bulldogs will watch out for most is strong safety Curtis Keyes.

"He had a hit we had to pull out of the tape because we don't want Fred (Gibson) and Reggie (Brown) to see it," Richt said.

The Bulldogs, of course, have their own heavy hitters in safeties Thomas Davis and Greg Blue. Davis leads the Bulldogs with 20 tackles, and Blue is next with 16, plus one sack.

The work Davis has done this season prompted glowing words from Richt this week.

"He's one of the greatest defensive players I've seen up close," Richt said. "That guy is special. It's amazing how that guy can tackle in the open field. Those guys have all kinds of room to run, and he hems them up and hits them on the rise. He makes more direct hits in the open field than any guy I've ever seen."

Georgia's defensive numbers aren't nearly as gaudy as they were last year thanks to the 294 rushing yards surrendered to Georgia Southern in the season opener. The Bulldogs are 86th in the nation in rushing defense (183.5). They are 41st in total defense (310.5), but their performance against South Carolina may be a signal that number will improve. The defense allowed only seven of the Gamecocks' 16 points, and the one score came on a 65-yard reception.

"We played two times better than we did against Georgia Southern," defensive tackle Kedric Golston said. "Last week, we took a step forward. Hopefully, we can keep taking steps forward, and we'll be where we need to be by the end of the year."

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