Georgia braces for Auburn rushing attack

ATHENS, Ga. — It was after last year's win over Georgia that Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville suggested Georgia coach Mark Richt should place a greater emphasis on the running game.

Tommy Tuberville pounded the point home in last year's 24-17 win over Georgia when Auburn had 62 carries for 179 yards and held the ball for almost 39 minutes, compared to 73 yards rushing on 27 carries for the Bulldogs.  

Though Georgia and Auburn each gained 375 total yards last year, the message from Tuberville is all yards are not the same. Tuberville said that when playing in the Southeastern Conference, it is better to run the clock and wear down a defense by keeping the ball on the ground than to take Georgia's 2001 route and  pass for 302 yards — with two interceptions.  

"He'll learn,'' said Tuberville of Richt after last season's game.  

Actually, Georgia's rushing average has dropped since last year, from 162.5 to 134.5 yards per game. Even so, the Bulldogs (9-1 overall, 6-1 SEC) could clinch the Eastern Division title with a win Saturday.  

Tuberville is following his own lesson this year. Auburn's average of 212 yards rushing per game is easily the highest of Tuberville's four years as the Tigers' head coach. Auburn ranks second in the league and 20th in the nation in rushing.

 "They say ‘We're lining up and we're going to hit you in the mouth,' '' said Georgia defensive end David Pollack.

Since taking over for injured Carnell "Cadillac" Williams in the second quarter against Florida on Oct. 19, Ronnie Brown has rushed for 523 yards and eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 217-pound Brown is a power runner who has enough speed to turn the corner. He has shown his speed with a long run of 55 yards and a long reception of 54 yards.

Despite the loss of Williams, three of Auburn's top five rushing totals under Tuberville have come this season, and No. 7 Georgia is preparing for more of the same in Saturday's 3:30 p.m. ET game.  

"Auburn doesn't hide the fact that they want to run the ball first, and they do it well,'' said Georgia defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder. "That's going to be the test, how we hold up against the run.''

Georgia ranks fourth in the league in rushing defense, allowing 114.6 yards per game.  Perhaps the high point of the season for the defense was holding Alabama to 109 yards rushing and 2.9 yards per carry in a 27-25 win on Oct. 5. To complete the road sweep of the two SEC teams in the state of Alabama, the defense faces the possibility of an even more physical struggle at Auburn.  

"I really believe this game will be the most physical of all,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt, "Auburn gets in the I-formation and just tries to hammer you. Alabama runs a lot of draw schemes. Auburn just pounds it down your throat.''

Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell has completed 68 percent of his passes, and has eight touchdown passes with only one interception. Much of his success has come on play-action passes after Brown has established the running game.Georgia's hope is to stop the running game early and force Campbell into more obvious and easily defensible passing situations.

One year ago, Georgia's defensive front was adjusting to the loss of starting defensive end Bruce Adrine to an injury. Johnathan Sullivan had to move from defensive tackle to defensive end and David Pollack, who has proved this year that end is his natural position, had to start at tackle.  

This year, Georgia looks to be better equipped for a long, physical game.

"We're going to have to substitute freely to keep everybody fresh,'' Richt said.

With Boss Bailey and Chris Clemons expected to overcome knee and ankle injuries at the two outside linebacker spots, Georgia should have its three starting linebackers together for the first time in three weeks.  

There is much better depth at defensive tackle, with freshmen Darrius Swain, Kedric Golston, and Gerald Anderson playing behind starters Sullivan and Ken Veal. Perhaps no position on the team has more depth than end, where Pollack and Will Thompson are the starters but Robert Geathers, Shedrick Wynn and Nic Clemons have good experience.  

Georgia had to develop depth at outside linebacker when Thomas Davis and Jamario Smith played behind Clemons and Bailey, and freshman Tony Taylor has played in every game behind Tony Gilbert at middle linebacker.  

Richt says rover Kendrell Curry and free safety Sean Jones will play key roles in the run defense against Brown. "The safeties will have to make some tackles,'' Richt said. "One broken tackle by a safety could be really devastating for us.''  

Georgia gave up a season-high 234 yards rushing to Vanderbilt but since then has defended the run well. In its only loss, Georgia held Florida to 42 yards rushing on 34 carries.  

If Brown reaches his averages of 130.8 yards and 6.4 yards per rush the last four games, Georgia may be denied its goal of reaching the SEC championship game.  

Said Pollack: "They beat us last year up front. We know what we're up against.'' >


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