But their biggest obstacle remains in game 12 as they prepare to play Georgia in the SEC championship this week in Atlanta. Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) will be a formidable opponent and will offer LSU arguably its best competition on both sides of the ball that they have seen all season.
There was concern in Athens at the beginning of the season to how well the Bulldogs would bounce back after the 2004 purge. They lost eight integral players, including quarterback David Greene, David Pollack, and Odell Thurman. But after amassing a successful 2005 campaign, those questions have been answered.
D.J. Shockley has provided most of the answers on offense. He has seen only sporadic play in his time at Georgia, as he was relegated to the backup role to Bulldog great David Greene for most of his career. But Shockley took over the reigns in the first game of the season against Boise St and the explosive offense never missed a beat. Some may even say that Shockley has more to offer on offense that includes a dangerous rushing ability.
Never was that more evident than in the Boise St game. Shockley tied a school record with five touchdown passes and added another one on the ground to break the school record for total touchdowns in a game with six. He ran for 85 yards and threw for 289 yards to easily beat Boise St 48-13.
Shockley and the Bulldogs hit a speed bump in their next contest against a newly improved South Carolina team. Georgia was down 9-7 at halftime but came out and solved the problem to escape with a 17-15 victory. Thomas Brown had a five yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to take the lead. For the game he rushed twenty times for 144 yards. Shockley was 8-17 for 112 yards and two interceptions. And he added a rushing touchdown.
University of Louisiana-Monroe provided little competition the following week as Georgia pounded them 44-7. Danny Ware had 109 yards on the ground. Tyson Browning and Kregg Lumpkin each added a rushing touchdown. Shockley continued to light up the offensive categories with his dual-threat attack. He ran three times for 45 yards and a touchdown. He was also 13-20 for 246 yards and a touchdown.
The Miss State game was another walk in the park as Georgia improved to 4-0 with a 23-10 victory. Danny Ware again led all rushing with 43 yards on nine carries. Shockley impressed onlookers by going 21-36 for 312 yards passing. He threw for touchdowns to Leonard Pope and Danny Ware.
The much anticipated Tennessee match lived up to the billing for three quarters. Heading into the final frame, Georgia was only up 13-7. But they exploded with two touchdowns to put the game out of reach, beating the Vols 27-14. Thomas Brown rushed for 94 yards and added a touchdown. Brannan Southerland also had a touchdown on the ground. Shockley was 16-27 for 207 yards and one interception. But it was Thomas Flowers 54 yard punt return for touchdown that gave the Bulldogs breathing room. On defense Greg Blue added 14 tackles to nullify any UT offense.
Georgia took the air out of Vanderbilt's tires with a 34-17 victory. Shockley was 15-30 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The benefactors were Bryan McClendon, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Brannan Southerland. Kregg Lumpkin added another score on the ground.
The Arkansas game turned out to impact the rest of Georgia's season. Shockley went down with a strained left knee with 8:28 left in the first half. He spent the remaining part of the game on the sideline on crutches. His injury provided a major setback to the offensive flow but he had a chance to contribute before the injury. He was 6-10 for 74 yards passing and a touchdown pass to Bryan McClendon. Backup quarterback Joe Tereshinski played valiantly going 11-19 for 165 yards and one interception, but added a touchdown pass of his own. The offensive difference maker was kicker Brandon Coutu who had three field goals(32, 48, 27). The Razorback running game was what kept them around as Darren McFadden had 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Any further damage was flamed out by linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler who had 13 tackles. Even with the injury to Shockley, the Bulldogs escaped with a 23-20 victory.
Their fortune was not as lucky the next week against Florida. With Shockley still injured, Tereshinski played the whole game and only managed 100 yards passing. Florida scored 14 points in the first quarter and that was enough to win 14-10. Georgia's only touchdown came on a Thomas Brown offering that was snagged by Tereshinski in the end zone.
Shockley's return came at the ideal time. Auburn was on a hot streak of conference dominance and Georgia was going to have to play lights-out to get the win. Shockley did his part, going 20-36 for 304 yards and throwing two touchdowns. But it was a 20 yard John Vaughn field goal with six seconds left that was the decider. Auburn barely pulled it out 31-30. The Bulldog offensive output was enough to win but it was the performance of Kenny Irons that gave Auburn the advantage. He rushed 37 times for 179 yards with two touchdowns. This loss gave Georgia a two game losing streak and left them at 7-2.
Their confidence was revamped with a 45-13 win over Kentucky.
But it was the last game of the season that was set to have an impact on the Georgia attitude going into the SEC championship. The Bulldogs barely defeated Georgia Tech 14-7 to close out their regular season. Each team scored a touchdown in the first quarter and the scoreboard remained inactive until Shockley connected with Bryan McClendon in the fourth quarter to take a 14-7 advantage. Georgia Tech responded with a late game rally for themselves. But Tim Jennings intercepted a Reggie Ball offering on the five yard line with 1:11 left to stomp out any threat.
The numbers speak for themselves and when Shockley is behind center Georgia has a much better chance of moving the chains. He has always been known as a swift runner but he has really come into his own this year as a passer. This newly showcased talent makes his running that much more dangerous to boot. He will be the "X" factor in Georgia's success on offense. The Florida loss was a direct result of his absence and everyone knows it.
Although Shockley is a dangerous runner, Georgia has a stable of capable running backs in their own right. Thomas Brown is listed as the starter but a host of others will see playing time as well. Danny Ware makes the most of his opportunities by turning in game changing carries whenever he gets the ball. Also, Kregg Lumpkin is another guy that could be a starter on almost any other SEC school. Fullback Brannan Southerland is a threat close to the goal line to bust in for scores.
The receiving group lost two big names after last season in Fred Gipson and Reggie Brown. And like Shockley they have picked up the slack. Leading the way is tight end Leonard Pope. This 6-8, 250 junior has great hands and will create matchup problems for the undersized LSU secondary. Georgia knows this and that is why Pope has led the team in catches for many games. The rest of threats are just as formidable. Bryan McClendon is a clutch receiver who finds the ball thrown his way when the game is on the line. Sean Bailey is a guy with breakneck speed who can change the momentum of a game in a blink.
The offensive line is anchored by Max Jean-Gilles. He is widely regarded as one of the top lineman in the country and will suit up at right guard. Ryan Schnetzer will play center while Dennis Roland will line up at right tackle. Nick Jones and Daniel Inman will play left guard and tackle.
The defense is a hard-hitting bunch that has a nose for the ball. They are intimidating and relish their reputation as head-ringers.
This begins on the defensive line with Will Thompson at defensive end. Next to him is run-stopper Kedric Golsten. Gerald Anderson plugs the middle at nose tackle. Quentin Moses is the other defensive end and could prove to be a thorn in JaMarcus Russell's side all game.
The linebackers are led by Danny Verdun Wheeler who is making a name for himself in a talent-laden defense. The other linebackers are Brandon Miller and Jarvis Jackson.
The secondary for the Bulldogs must think they are linebackers. Greg Blue is the safety and has so many dog bone stickers on his helmet that it looks white. Tra Battle is the rover and packs a hard punch on his 5-11 frame. Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter will line up at the corners.
Brandon Coutu might be the guy to break the streak of dreadful placekicking against LSU. He has come through in big games before so a loud stadium will be nothing new. Gordon Ely-Kelso will punt. Bryan McClendon and Thomas Flowers will handle the returns.
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