Musa takes the lead for Georgia ground game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - If Georgia was to beat Alabama, the most popular assumption is the win would come through the air. <b>Musa Smith</b> had another idea: Keep the offense balanced, and the rushing yards would come. The plan worked.

Georgia's most damaging yards Saturday came from Smith on the ground against an Alabama defense that ranked seventh in the nation against the run.  Alabama had held its last three opponents to a combined total of 72 yards rushing, and that included minus-23 yards to Oklahoma.  The Alabama defense had fared well against three high-profile backs - Middle Tennessee State's Dwone Hicks, Oklahoma's Quentin Griffin and Derrick Nix of Southern Miss.  

But Smith set a different pace, rushing for 126 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Georgia finished with 161 yards rushing and 224 yards passing for a winning balance.  If not for problems with cramping that forced Smith to return to the locker room in the third quarter, he probably would have topped 150 yards rushing.

"They said we're going to have to throw the ball,'' said senior receiver Terrence Edwards. "They said we can't run the ball. This week was so much about what we can't do, and we did the exact opposite.'' 

Smith established his pace by rushing for 54 yards on six carries in the first quarter. He was already over 100 yards after three quarters.  "Musa was breaking tackles, running through tackles,'' Edwards said.  

Smith, who has three 100-yard games this season, gave credit to the offensive line.  "They're the ones who opened up the holes,'' Smith said.  But Smith needed help in the second half. Tony Milton added six carries for 28 yards, and fullback J.T. Wall added four carries for 25 yards. 

Still, Coach Mark Richt was worried when Smith was back in the locker room in the third quarter, receiving intravenous fluids.  "Musa had a great effort, but I wish we had two Musas,'' Richt said. "He still gets a little fatigued, but that was understandable today. He had to get some fluids in the third quarter, but he was man enough to continue.''

Georgia turned to Smith again in the closing minutes when it was trying to use up the clock while also moving into field goal position.  When the Bulldogs, then trailing 25-24, took possession at the Alabama 34 with 3:45 to play, Smith was given the ball on five straight plays.

Said quarterback David Greene: "They knew we were going to run it and we knew we were going to run it. It was just smash-mouth football.''  On the five carries, Smith gained 18 yards, including an eight-yard gain on the first play of the drive. Smith's production forced Alabama to use all its timeouts, and it left Billy Bennett with a routine 32-yard field goal to win the game.  Said Smith: "I knew what I had to do.''

Dawg Post Top Stories