GA looks for answers on Offense vs. Northwestern

When things are going well, football can be a simple game. Just ask Georgia defensive end <b>David Pollack</b>. After being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, Pollack said: "Football is football. You line up and hit the guy in front of you.''

ATHENS, Ga. - When things are going well, football can be a simple game.  Just ask Georgia defensive end David Pollack.  After being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, Pollack said: "Football is football. You line up and hit the guy in front of you.''  

No members of the Georgia offense can be used as references on the simplicity of the game.  Coach Mark Richt says his offensive players fell into a self-defeating game of musical mistakes last week that kept the offense out of the end zone in a 13-7 win over South Carolina.

Of course it was Pollack, not the offense, who scored the Bulldogs' only touchdown on a memorable interception in the end zone.  Richt knows better execution is one answer, but when it is a different player on almost every snap making a mistake, the answer becomes more complicated.  Richt was encouraged by improved execution in practice this week. 

"We made some of the corrections we need to make offensively,'' he said Thursday.  Thanks to Pollack, the No. 8 Bulldogs (2-0 overall, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) are still undefeated as they begin two weeks of non-conference games that come at the perfect time for an offense in need of fine-tuning.  Northwestern State (3-0) visits Sanford Stadium tomorrow at 1 p.m., and Georgia plays host to New Mexico State next week.  

Northwestern State, from Natchitoches, La.,  are ranked 10th in I-AA. The Demons have been ranked eight straight seasons.  No I-AA team has ever defeated a ranked I-A team. In its only other test against a I-A ranked team, Northwestern State lost to No. 21 Missouri 35-14 in 1998.  In such a circumstance, the heavily favored I-A team usually is in a no-win situation. Win by 40 points over the I-AA team, and critics say "So what?'' Win by only 20 points, and the response is "What went wrong?''  

For Georgia, this is not a no-win situation. Even if Northwestern State did not boast a tradition of strong defense, any game in which Georgia looks sharp on offense is a step forward. For a team still looking to reach 300 yards of offense for the first time, a good day of practice against the scout team defense is cause for celebration.  

Of 117 I-A teams, Georgia ranks 111th in total offense with its average of 250 yards per game, last in the conference and almost 100 yards per game behind 11th-place South Carolina's average of 344.7.  "They are extremely explosive on the offensive side of the football even though at times they haven't all jelled together, and I hope they don't now,'' said Northwestern State coach Scott Stoker, the Demons' quarterback from 1986-89.   

Richt also sees talent on his offense in quarterback David Greene, the 2001 SEC Freshman of the Year, tailback Musa Smith, who has overcome a long battle with a groin injury, and a deep receivers corps led by Fred Gibson, Damien Gary and Terrence Edwards. Sooner or later, says Richt, the yards and points will come.  

"If you go on eight cylinders and only two cylinders are hitting, we're fortunate to be winning,'' Richt said. "It gives me hope that if we do start to play at all offensively we might be able to do some things.''

To extend Richt's analogy, Georgia now shifts from two drivers to one, as the broken foot suffered by D.J. Shockley last week puts at least a temporary end to the two-quarterback system. Greene will be the lone leader of the offense for at least four to six weeks, and Cory Phillips moves up as the top backup.

Though the loss of Shockley's running skills is a blow, the return to one quarterback could have a calming effect on the offense.  Meanwhile, Northwestern State will continue to rotate quarterbacks. Two seniors - Kevin Magee and Ben Beach - bring almost identical numbers to the game. Each has attempted 35 passes, each has thrown three touchdown passes and each has been picked off once.  The Demons may not be as awed by the visit to Sanford Stadium as some would expect. They upset Texas Christian 27-24 in overtime last season and then lost 24-0 at Oklahoma State.   

Northwestern State at No. 8 Georgia

  • When/Where: Tomorrow, 1 p.m./Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga. No TV
  • Last week: Georgia won at South Carolina, 13-7. Northwestern State won at Delaware State, 34-14.
  • Records:  Georgia (2-0 overall, 1-0 Southeastern Conference); Northwestern State (3-0 overall, 0-0 Southland Conference).
  • Records:  Georgia (2-0 overall, 1-0 Southeastern Conference); Northwestern State (3-0 overall, 0-0 Southland Conference).
  • Head coaches: Mark Richt is 10-4 in his second season at Georgia; Scott Stoker, 34, is 3-0 in his first season as a head coach.
  • Georgia players to watch : QB David Greene (23 of 40 passing for 236 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT);  RB Musa Smith (50 carries for 208 yards; 4 receptions for 16 yards); WR Fred Gibson (9 receptions for 144 yards); WR Terrence Edwards (4 receptions for 45  yards, 1 TD); DE David Pollack (22 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT); LB Boss Bailey (28 tackles, 1 sack).
  • Northwestern State players to watch: TB Derrick Johnese (51 carries for 217 yards, 5 TD; 4 receptions for 36 yards); QB Ben Beach (21 of 35 passing for 297 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT); QB Kevin Magee (20 of 35 passing for 300 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT); WR Toby Ziegler (6 receptions for 99 yards, 1 TD); TE John Gilpin
    (5 receptions for 68 yards, 2 TD); DE Roy Locks (7.5 sacks).
  • Keep an eye on: Northwestern State may open in a 4-2-5 base defense. Even with five defensive backs, the Demons  rely on man coverages. If Northwestern opens with one cornerback on receiver Fred Gibson - a mistake made by South Carolina on its opening play last week -  look for Georgia to attempt to take
    advantage of that matchup early in the game. Gibson opened the South Carolina game with a 52-yard reception.
  • Worth noting: Northwestern State may be without its top player. Senior Terrence McGee, a free safety who has seen spot action at wide receiver, may be held out with deep thigh bruises on both legs. Also, leading receiver Devon Lockett (8 receptions for 160 yards, 1 touchdown) is out with a broken foot. Northwestern State is the alma mater for former New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Bobby Hebert, who will be watching from the Demons' sideline. The game is a sellout but it will be a surprise if Sanford Stadium approaches full capacity. Georgia will be without quarterback D.J. Shockley (broken left foot), center Russ Tanner (torn tendons in right hand) and offensive tackle George Foster (wrist). Defensive end Nic Clemons (turf toe) will be in uniform but may not play. Natchitoches, the Louisiana hometown for Northwestern State, is pronounced NAK-ah-dish.
  • Worth quoting: "We flipped a coin and called heads or tails all summer to see how many we could get right, so that's something we really worked on.'' - offensive tackle

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