Dawgs Looking to improve on Third Down

ATHENS - Georgia's continued offensive struggles in the red zone this season have drawn most of the negative attention focused on the unit, but a closer look reveals the team is struggling just as badly in another vital area.

The No. 3 Bulldogs have converted only 13 of 36 third downs this year. Their 36.1-percent success rate, which is buoyed by one first down via penalty, is the third-worst in the league, better than only Kentucky and Ole Miss and worse than Mississippi State.

Still, "it hasn't just been awful," Coach Mark Richt said.

It may not get much better this week, though. The Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) play No. 13 LSU (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Sanford Stadium. The Tigers are second in the league in third-down conversion defense, allowing its opponents to succeed just 28.1 percent of the time.

The key to improving Georgia's third down ratio lies almost solely in staying out of third-and-long situations, Richt and the team's players agree. Twenty-eight of Georgia's 36 third downs have required five or more yards to convert.

"We need to do a better job of reducing the yardage on first and second downs," Richt said.

The Bulldogs' average yardage on third down is 7.4.

"If you get third-and-less-than-five, you can really open up your options where you can run or throw," center Russ Tanner said. "That's big against a team like LSU, which blitzes 14 guys, I think."

Georgia has had the opposite problem so far this season. When it gets to third-and-long, its opponents have fallen back and played it safe.

"They know you're going to throw the ball, and there really haven't been any throwing lanes for the deep routes," quarterback David Greene said. "We've had to take everything underneath."

Seven times on unsuccessful attempts, Georgia has completed a pass but ended up short of a first down. Its running game hasn't been much more productive. The Bulldogs have only converted three third downs on running plays. (In one case, quarterback D.J. Shockley scrambled for a first down.)

The return of starting tailback Danny Ware from a bruised lung might fix a couple of problems. Ware, who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry, should help by getting more yards on first- and second-down runs and by being a better option in third-and-short situations.

"I'm going out there trying to get a first down every time I touch the ball," Ware said. "We'll see what happens."

"He's a good second effort guy," fullback Jeremy Thomas said. "Hopefully, that'll help."

Georgia converted just 8 of its 30 third downs in two games against LSU last year.

"Third down is definitely going to be critical for this game," Thomas said.

Georgia's third downs this season

 Georgia Southern
 Down and distance Converted? Play
 First quarter
 -- Third-and-three Yes David Greene to Fred Gibson for 7 yards
 Second quarter
 -- Third-and-eight No Greene incomplete
 -- Third-and-five No Danny Ware rush for 2
 -- Third-and-nine No Greene sacked
 Third quarter
 -- Third-and-eight Yes D.J. Shockley scrambles for 10
 -- Third-and-nine Yes Greene to Reggie Brown for 43 and touchdown
 Fourth quarter
 -- Third-and-seven No Shockley incomplete
 -- Third-and-seven No Shockley incomplete

 South Carolina
 First quarter
 -- Third-and-11 Yes Greene to Gibson for 12
 -- Third-and-five No Greene incomplete
 Second quarter
 -- Third-and-six No Ware for 5
 -- Third-and-six Yes Greene to Bryan McClendon for 6
 -- Third-and-seven Yes Greene to Gibson for 14
 -- Third-and-eight No Greene to Tyson Browning for 6
 -- Third-and-two Yes Michael Cooper rush for 2
 -- Third-and-one Yes Des Williams rush for 1
 Third quarter
 -- Third-and-one Yes Cooper rush for 7
 -- Third-and-13 No Greene incomplete
 -- Third-and-six Yes Greene to Browning for 12 and touchdown
 -- Third-and-10 No Greene incomplete
 Fourth quarter
 -- Third-and-six No Greene incomplete
 -- Third-and-three No Greene incomplete

 First quarter
 -- Third-and-nine No Green to Brown for 8
 -- Third-and-two No Cooper rush for 1
 Second quarter
 -- Third-and-21 No Shockley to Leonard Pope for 16
 -- Third-and-13 No Greene sacked
 -- Third-and-two Yes Greene to Jeremy Thomas for 14
 -- Third-and-10 Yes Greene to A.J. Bryant for 34
 -- Third-and-13 No Greene to Browing for 8
 Third quarter
 -- Third-and-three No Greene to Browning, complete but fumble
 -- Third-and-six No Greene to Gibson for 3
 -- Third-and-13 No Greene incomplete
 Fourth quarter
 -- Third-and-seven Yes Converted by penalty
 -- Third-and-10 No Greene to Brown for 6
 -- Third-and-eight No Greene incomplete
 -- Third-and-seven No Thomas Brown rush for 4

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