published Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Explosive plays disappear for Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia tailback J.J. Green (15) breaks free against Missouri.
Georgia tailback J.J. Green (15) breaks free against Missouri.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Explosive plays in college football are those that gain 25 or more yards, and the Georgia Bulldogs were racking up a bunch earlier this season.

In Georgia's 38-35 opening loss at Clemson, tailback Todd Gurley's 75-yard touchdown run was the longest of the five explosive plays produced by the Bulldogs. They would add 19 in their next five games, but the big gains were absent during last Saturday's 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt.

Georgia was held to a season-low 221 yards against the Commodores, with the long gain coming on a 17-yard pass from Aaron Murray to tailback J.J. Green.

"We've got to do some soul-searching and figure out what we need to do individually and as a team to get better and finish this season off strong," Murray said. "There are a lot of great games left, including a big game with Florida in a couple of weeks, so we've got to be able to put this behind us and grind away."

Grinding has become the name of the game for Georgia's injury-riddled offense as defenses employ more and more zone coverages.

The Bulldogs had their ability to stretch the field reduced when deep-threat receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley suffered season-ending ACL injuries. Chris Conley has been the team's leading receiver, but his longest catch at Vanderbilt was 15 yards before he sustained an ankle injury that is expected to keep him out of next week's game.

"They were a team that was going to blitz us and play three-deep zone and keep everything in front of them," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We had to do a good job of executing, and for the most part we did not."

Georgia's last explosive play was Green's 57-yard run on the second play of the second half of the Oct. 12 home loss to Missouri. The Bulldogs failed to gain a yard in any of their next three plays following Green's big gain, settling for Marshall Morgan's 28-yard field goal in an eventual 41-26 loss.

The Bulldogs have run 100 plays from scrimmage since Green's 57-yarder against Missouri and have gained just 403 yards.

"Teams are going to make us execute, and they're going to try not to give us any cheap ones," Bobo said. "We've got to improve as a group with our assignments and make plays. We've got to find ways to get the ball to the guys who can make plays."

Gurley practiced Tuesday for the first time since spraining his ankle Sept. 28 against LSU, but he was limited in the 90-minute workout in full pads.

"I've only played with two other players who have had the impact that Todd has, and that was A.J. Green and Jarvis Jones," tight end Arthur Lynch said. "He has an impact from an emotional standpoint and his production on the field, and the opposing defenses really do have to game-plan around him. He will bring a great impact back to us.

"I'm not going to say we've been hurting at the running back position, because our two freshmen have done a really good job, but I just think Todd is a different kind of player with a different skill set that not many have, whether that's in NFL or college."

Georgia hopes to have not only Gurley but receiver Michael Bennett (meniscus) back for next Saturday's game. Bennett also was limited in Tuesday's practice, as were Green (shoulder), tailback Brendan Douglas (sprained knee and wrist) and receiver Rhett McGowan (ankle).

Sitting out Tuesday were Conley and fellow receiver Rantavious Wooten (hip bruise). The Bulldogs will take today off and practice Thursday.

Having Gurley back next week could lead Florida to put extra defenders in the box and allow Georgia to make more plays in the passing game, potentially explosive ones. Should Gurley and Bennett be unable to play, however, the Bulldogs could have the same offensive components they took to Nashville, minus Conley.

"Obviously you don't want to go into an open date with a loss," Bobo said. "It's disappointing, but I think this is a good time for us to go back to the drawing board and improve. We've got to improve with what we've got on the field."

Said Murray: "This is when our leaders really have to step up and make sure that everyone stays focused, hungry and keeps working."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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