Bulldogs brace for Aggies' option attack

Richt says he is prepared for a possibly shaky start for his defense

ATHENS, Ga. - If New Mexico State already has one or two long drives before some late-arriving Georgia fans find their Sanford Stadium seats today, don't be surprised.

Georgia coach Mark Richt won't be.

Richt says he is prepared for a possibly shaky start for his defense as it prepares for its first look at a true option attack in two years.

"I would not be surprised to see a (New Mexico State) drive or two go down the field until we really get the feel of it,'' Richt said.

Eighth-ranked Georgia (3-0 overall, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) hasn't faced a true option attack since beating  Georgia Southern in 2000.

New Mexico State provides a different look than Georgia saw against Georgia Southern or that it will see next week at Alabama. The Aggies (1-2 overall, 0-0 Sun Belt) send their quarterback down the line in a speed option attack that will test the discipline of Georgia's safeties and linebackers.

Georgia has to play assignment football, but even without breakdowns on defense it has to accept the probability that New Mexico State may run for more than 200 yards in the 1 p.m. game. The Aggies have ranked among the nation's top 25 rushing leaders for five straight seasons.

"Their commitment to running the football is obvious,'' said Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who has seen his unit give up only seven points in back-to-back wins over South Carolina and Northwestern State.

"They pride themselves in running the ball,'' VanGorder said. "I'm sure there are going to be times where they will have yards. We just can't give up big plays. ... You have to maintain focus. You lose focus, and all of a sudden you give up they big play.''

New Mexico State is averaging 214.3 yards rushing per game. Georgia ranks 18th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of 93.7 yards on the ground.

Georgia's defensive stats may mean little today, however.  It has not had to defend the late decisions that will be made today by New Mexico State quarterbacks Paul Dombrowski - who rushed for 136 yards on 18 carries in a big 24-13 win over top rival New Mexico last week - and Buck Pierce.

Georgia linebacker Chris Clemons said South Carolina's defense struggled to contain the Aggies' quarterbacks.

"South Carolina kept thinking (Pierce) was going to pitch the ball, and he almost never did,'' Clemons said. "It's like a sweep option, and the quarterback was keeping the ball on the sweep.''

For Georgia, today's game should serve as a nice lead-in for next week's test at Alabama, as well as an Oct. 19 game against a Vanderbilt team that may also bring some option plays to Athens.

"I think it's a chance for us to kind of hone in on some of our specifics in defending options and that will carry over to Alabama a little bit and Vanderbilt, so I think it's probably good timing for us,'' VanGorder said.

This could be a dangerous week for Georgia, no matter what kind of offense New Mexico State is bringing. The Bulldogs played well in last week's easy 45-7 win over Northwestern State and know that Alabama and Tennessee are coming in the next two weeks on the schedule.

Richt has shown game film of New Mexico State's season-opening 34-24 loss at South Carolina in hopes that will force Georgia players to respect the upset potential of the Aggies.

"I think they're a very good team,'' said Richt, also making note of the Aggies' 34-13 loss to "a very good California team.''

Richt probably will mention Florida State's upset loss to Louisville Thursday night as another reason to avoid looking ahead to the Alabama and Tennessee games.

Added Richt: "I think our players can look at the film and see they are very capable of beating us.

"Defensively, we're looking at something a little different and that has to get their attention. Offensively, we've improved but I still believe the guys haven't gotten cocky.''

Georgia enjoyed some success when lining up four receivers last week, but Richt expects the New Mexico State defense to keep two safeties deep in its base defense. That would make it important for Georgia to establish its running attack with Musa Smith early in the game.


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