October 14, 2011

No looking ahead



Defensive line coach Rodney Garner probably summed it up best, regarding the current status of the Georgia Bulldogs, winners of four straight and sitting tied for first place in the SEC East, heading into Saturday night's game at Vanderbilt.

"I don't think anybody can rest on any laurels," Garner shrugged, adding the Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1) have shown the tendency of shooting themselves in the proverbial foot before.

He's not the only one espousing that particular message.

All week long, head coach Mark Richt and most of his players have spent the week talking about focus, and not overlooking the Commodores (3-2, 1-2), which have dropped 15 of their past 16 games to the Bulldogs.

"Vanderbilt has not lost a game at home this year," Richt pointed out. "I can't tell you how many times we've been at halftime (at Vanderbilt) wondering what's going on. They are an outstanding team and a team we have a lot of respect for."

Linebacker Chase Vasser has received that message loud and clear.

"We have to make sure we remember that they are not the teams from the past," Vasser said. "They have won some games and will have a lot of momentum going into the game this weekend. We have to be ready to play."

If the Bulldogs need any more convincing Saturday night (7 p.m., Fox Sports South), Garner emphatically points to last week's game between Vanderbilt and Alabama.

The host Crimson Tide blanked the Commodores 34-0, but they only trailed the nation's second-ranked team 14-0 at the half.

"We moved the ball some against a really good defense, but we didn't get into the end zone. I think there's a fine line to that too, because you've really got to be able to show the positives and what we were able to do. We've just got to keep building," first-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. "As we all know, this is a process and we wake up every single morning aggressively attacking what we're trying to get done. There were some really good signs on Saturday, we've just got to do that consistently."

Exactly who will be calling the signals at quarterback remains up in the air.

Starter Larry Smith injured his lower leg in the first half against Alabama and was replaced by junior Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

According to Franklin, Rodgers received most of the practice with the first unit this week, but said that should not necessarily be taken as a sign that he will start against the Bulldogs.

"It really has more to do with Larry at this point not being 100 percent," Franklin said. "We might not know until we're running out on the field on Saturday. Whoever we play will be the guy we feel gives us the best chance to win."

With the way Georgia's defense has played of late - allowing just two touchdowns in the last 16 quarters - it doesn't figure to be easy, although Richt is also realistic when it comes to the level of competition the Bulldogs have faced thus far.

"I don't want to get too excited yet, but I'm feeling like we've built a very good foundation on defense," Richt said. "I'm hoping the best is yet to come. I think we are gaining confidence. If you can start out by stopping the running game, it's huge. We've done a really good job with that, which has allowed us to get people out of their game plan a little bit."

No doubt that will be the goal against the Commodores, who are averaging 115.2 yards per game, the 10th-lowest total in the SEC.

Offensively, the Bulldogs would like to pick up the pace.

In their four SEC games, Georgia has gone from scoring 42 against South Carolina, to 27 against Ole Miss, 24 against Mississippi before last week's 20-12 win at Tennessee.

The Bulldogs rank fifth in the SEC in total offense, averaging 405.8 yards per game.

"I think we've moved the ball very well. We've been able to change field position no matter what through the season," tight end Aron White said. "One thing we have struggled with is finishing drives late in the game. I don't think it's something that's going to hurt our season, but it's definitely something that we need to get better at."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.