Georgia peaking at the right time

ATHENS, Ga. — As Georgia's game for state bragging rights quickly turned into a rout, an upset in another intrastate game left the Bulldogs thinking about more than a state championship.

In a game billed as a defensive battle between two of the nation's top 15 scoring defenses, No. 5 Georgia delivered the most lopsided victory in the 95-game history of the series, whipping the Yellow Jackets 51-7 Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

Favored by nine points, Georgia exploded for its most points ever against Georgia Tech and its largest margin of victory in the series.

"If there's ever a time to peak, it's now,'' said Georgia senior offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb after the most complete effort of the season for the Bulldogs (11-1), who next Saturday will play Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference championship game in the Georgia Dome.

During the game came word that Oklahoma State had upset No. 3 Oklahoma, which is ahead of Georgia in the polls and in the Bowl Championship Series.

"That was a little extra incentive,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "We all hope to have a shot (at the national championship).''

Georgia should move to No. 3 in the next BCS and, with a little more help, could be playing for more than the SEC championship. If Georgia beats Arkansas in next Saturday's 6 p.m. SEC championship game and Virginia Tech beats Miami, then Georgia could move to No. 2 in the BCS standings. It then would be the team selected to face Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl national championship game.

"We're going to be huge fans for Virginia Tech,'' said Georgia quarterback David Greene. "But we have to take care of our business and not worry about what's ahead for other teams.''

Georgia has reached 11 wins for the first time since 1982, but it has spent much of the year playing close games instead of enjoying lopsided victories — especially by unprecedented margins.

Georgia is 5-1 in games decided by no more than seven points. Georgia whipped Tech (7-5) by an even wider margin than it beat Northwestern State (45-7), New Mexico State (41-10), Vanderbilt (48-17) and Kentucky (52-24). Before Saturday, Georgia's biggest win in the series against Tech was a 47-8 decision in 1968.

After playing 10 straight weeks, Georgia enjoyed an off week before playing Tech. Stinchcomb said there was talk in the off week that Georgia still had not played its best game.

"We talked about it and thought there was some untapped potential,'' Stinchcomb said. "There are not a lot of teams that can say that at 10-1. Hopefully, this is just one of three games where we reach that potential.''

Despite the national championship possibilities, Georgia's emphasis will be on next Saturday's 6 p.m. game against Arkansas in the Georgia Dome.

"The only way we have a shot is to win next week,'' Richt said.

Georgia will be playing to win its first SEC championship since 1982, so Richt said the BCS picture "won't be the focus of our motivation.''

Said Richt: "We all know, Georgia has not won a championship in 20 years. (The SEC title) is enough motivation in itself.''

Georgia played like a champion against Tech, leading 34-0 at halftime and 44-0 after three quarters. Starting quarterback David Greene and backup D.J. Shockley moved the offense with equal efficiency. Perhaps only against Kentucky have both quarterbacks enjoyed as much success in the same game.

Greene completed 10 of 14 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Frustrating Tech with his option skills, Shockley was 5 for 8 passing for 86 yards while also rushing six times for 20 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, tailback Musa Smith had 20 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown to move past the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Smith is the first Georgia back to reach the milestone since Garrison Hearst in 1992.

Most telling was Georgia's 230-71 advantage in rushing yards.

Also key was the fact Tech lost five turnovers, including two lost fumbles on kickoff returns, while Georgia did not lose a turnover.

"It was a very poorly played game in all phases for our football team,'' said Tech coach Chan Gailey. "Obviously, I didn't get the guys ready to play.'' Added Gailey: "After we fumbled the second kickoff, we looked at ourselves and asked ‘What's going on?'  We haven't had those kinds of things go on all year. You wonder what's going on, what's happening.''

Tech's running game suffered after tailback Gordon Clinkscale, held to 13 yards rushing on five carries, was lost with a knee injury late in the first quarter. Receiver Jonathan Smith played behind A.J. Suggs and Damarius Bilbo at quarterback and led Tech with 47 yards rushing. P. J. Daniels was Tech's leading running back with only 16 yards rushing.

"I didn't think (the Georgia run defense) could do that,'' Gailey said. "I thought we would be able to run the ball a little bit.'' Added Gailey of Georgia's defense: "They're very physical up front. They're the most talented front seven we've played all year, by far.''

Tech ranked No. 11 in the nation in scoring defense. Before facing Georgia, it had not given up more than 34 points in a game.

"Everything we wanted to do, we couldn't do,'' said Tech safety Jeremy Muyres. "I give credit to Georgia. They played great and we didn't.''

Added Richt: "(Georgia players) are used to playing tight games. I don't now how they'll react to this. We haven't had a game like this all year long.''  

With at least one championship within its reach, Georgia couldn't pick a better time to peak.


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