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Post Ground game will likely tell the tale

Thursday September 25, 2008

A lot of people are asking this week how Georgia should attack Alabama’s formidable defensive front. Quinton does a good job of illustrating the importance of winning individual battles in the passing game against the cornerbacks along the sideline. Others like Bruce Feldman place the game on Knowshon’s capable shoulders.

Of course a one-dimensional offense is going to struggle against a defense of any decent quality, so the Dawgs are going to need plays from both the passing game and on the ground. But which is more important? While the best scoring chances might come through the air, Mark Richt’s history against Nick Saban suggests that the margin of victory will be more closely reflected in the rushing totals.

During the 2003 season, Georgia and Saban’s LSU team met twice. Georgia actually passed for more yards than LSU in both games, but LSU came away with both wins. In the first meeting in Baton Rouge, the rushing totals were low and roughly even (105 LSU to 97 UGA), and the game was tight all the way, low-scoring, and decided at the end. The second meeting in Atlanta was all LSU. The Tigers racked up 293 yards on the ground, most of it from Justin Vincent, and the Dawgs eeked out 50 yards rushing. The score was predictably lopsided.

Fast-forward to 2004. Though the story of the day was David Greene’s record-setting five touchdown passes, he only completed ten passes in the game for 172 yards. LSU had more passing yards but lost the game by 29 points. The disparity in the score was again reflected in the rushing yardage – 221 for Georgia to just 67 for LSU.

Just eleven yards of rushing separated Saban’s first Alabama team and Georgia a year ago (164 Bama to 153 Georgia). The result was a score in the 20s with another close finish.

The happiest person over the emergence of A.J. Green has to be Knowshon Moreno. Whether it was defensive fatigue or adjustments to cover Green or some combination of the two, Moreno did most of his damage in the desert after Green had established his presence during that late first half drive. Bama might be tough up front, but the running game cannot be abandoned. Clemson sealed their fate by surrendering way too early to Bama’s run defense, and Georgia can’t get caught in that trap.

Georgia might get their big plays through the air, but the game will be won on the ground. Whether it’s establishing tempo early or keeping control of a lead later in the game, Georgia’s going to have to run the ball one way or the other even if it takes big passing plays to open things up.

Good blocking plus a little Knowshon can get it done.

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