Quarterback David Greene passed for two second-quarter touchdowns, but he often overthrew open receivers. At other times, the receivers were plagued by dropped passes, so Georgia's offense did not look as ready for next Saturday's 3:30 p.m. Southeastern Conference test at Alabama, or for a visit from Tennessee the following week.
For the third time this season, Georgia was held under 300 yards of total offense. It ran a season-low 56 plays - 28 fewer than New Mexico State. "It could have been a heck of an offensive game,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt, bemoaning such missed opportunities as Greene twice overthrowing Terrence Edwards when Edwards was open for would-be touchdown passes, and tight end Ben Watson dropping another pass in the end zone.
In the second half, when Curry's interception return generated No. 8 Georgia's only points, the sleep-walking Bulldogs ran only 21 plays and generated only 74 yards. "The second half was very, very frustrating,'' Richt said. "I know guys will look at the film and see what could have been. There could have been a lot more points and yards.''
The good news for Richt: Georgia is 4-0 for the first time since 1999 and is playing like a top 10 team on defense and special teams. "If the offense gets over the hump, and I think they're much closer to getting over the hump than two weeks ago, if we put it all together we have a chance to do something,'' Richt said. For small consolation on offense, there is this: Instead of missed assignments that were prevalent in the first two games, Georgia's problems Saturday were mostly limited to poor execution of plays that should have worked. The offensive blocked well, but the skill players struggled.
The win over New Mexico State (1-3) was assured after Georgia exploded for 27 second-quarter points. In the second half, the offense returned to the form it showed when it played barely well enough to survive wins over Clemson and South Carolina. Aware of the shadow cast by next week's visit to Alabama, and the potential for his players to have been looking ahead, Richt said he almost hoped that a lack of focus was responsible for Saturday's modest totals of 17 first downs and 299 total yards.
Instead, Richt said, "It reminds me too much of a few other games early in the year.'' In Georgia's 4-0 start, its special teams have produced three touchdowns - a kickoff return by Fred Gibson against Clemson, a blocked punt returned by Bruce Thornton against Northwestern State and Gary's punt return. Its defense has produced two touchdowns - the memorable end-zone interception by David Pollack against South Carolina and Curry's return Saturday.
Compared to the combined five touchdowns from defense and special teams, Georgia running backs have twotouchdowns - both from Musa Smith Saturday. Smith scored on runs of 10 and 13 yards while finishing with 79 yards on 12 carries. Said Greene: "The thing is, the regular plays we executed pretty well, but the big plays we were just terrible. I missed two touchdown passes. We had some drops, also. We've just got to make the plays, especially if we want to win the next week and the weeks after that.''
Edwards provided one memorable highlight, jumping high to tip a pass from Greene in the second quarter and then turning and catching his own deflection for a gain of 19 yards. Edwards and Gary each caught five passes, including touchdown catches of 10 and 20 yards, respectively, as Georgia put the game away with 27 second-quarter points.
Meanwhile, the Georgia defense did gain momentum for Alabama by playing so well against New Mexico State's option offense. The Aggies played tough early in the year in a 34-24 loss at South Carolina, but they rushed for only 81 yards on 48 carries against Georgia. David Pollack (three sacks) and Shedrick Wynn (two sacks) led the line, and Georgia defensive backs played smart assignment football while almost always preventing big plays.
The Georgia defense bit on a New Mexico State play-fake that opened up a 43-yard pass to H.B. Briscoe on the Aggies' opening possession, but that was their only play of the day as long as 20 yards. Greene's one interception of the day on a pass deflected at the line set up a quick 20-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 New Mexico State lead. When Georgia's subsequent possession ended with a 13-yard punt from Jonathan Kilgo, New Mexico State had the ball at the Bulldogs' 36. The Georgia defense then set the tone for the rest of the game with a defensive stop.
GEORGIA 41, NEW MEXICO STATE 10
Georgia's offense showed about the same time as its typically late-arriving fans. The Bulldogs needed several minutes of sloppy play - and the shock of an early New Mexico State lead - to shake out of the funk. For Georgia the trigger was a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown by Damien Gary.
New Mexico State 7, Georgia 0
New Mexico State touchdown - Paul Dombrowski 2 run (Dario Aguiniga kick), 10:51. 2 plays, 20 yards, :17 drive. Key play: New Mexico State took over at
the Georgia 20 after cornerback Robert Canidate intercepted a David Greene pass that was intended for Terrence Edwards and deflected at the line by defensive end Traydell Bullock.
New Mexico State 7, Georgia 7
Georgia touchdown - Damien Gary 71 punt return (Billy Bennett kick), 2:50.
Key play: Immediately after fielding the low, long punt, Gary made a quick move to dodge New Mexico State's first cover specialist and then ran behind a Michael Johnson block to find a clear field down the right side.
Georgia 14, New Mexico State 7
Georgia touchdown - Gary 20 pass from Greene (Bennett kick), 14:55. 6 plays, 47 yards, 1:45 drive. Key play: On third and six from the 20, Gary ran past free safety Matt Griebel to find a seam in the middle of the secondary for his second touchdown.
Georgia 21, New Mexico State 7
Georgia touchdown - Musa Smith 10 run (Bennett kick), 9:48. 11 plays, 70 yards, 2:54 drive. Key play: On third and 10 from the 29, Terrence Edwards made an acrobatic catch of a high pass from Greene, tipping the ball as he jumped facing the line of scrimmage and then turning and catching the ball as he fell facing the goal line at the 10 for a gain of 19 yards.
Georgia 27, New Mexico State 7
Georgia touchdown - Edwards 10 pass from Greene (kick failed on fumbled snap, short pass from Jonathan Kilgo to Robert Brannon), 6:27. 3 plays, 42 yards, 1:04 drive. Key play: Greene opened the quick drive by passing over the middle for 26 yards to tight end Ben Watson.
Georgia 34, New Mexico State 7
Georgia touchdown - Smith 13 run (Bennett kick), 3:21. 3 plays, 51 yards, 1:04 drive. Key play: On the first play from the Georgia 49, Greene passed over the middle to Reggie Brown