published Thursday, September 26th, 2013

LSU, Georgia hope to establish run to set up pass

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) rushes against Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler (1) and linebacker Chase Garnham (36) during last year's game in Athens, Ga.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) rushes against Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler (1) and linebacker Chase Garnham (36) during last year's game in Athens, Ga.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PAUL OLIVER DIES

Former Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver died Tuesday night of an apparent suicide, the San Diego Tribune reported Wednesday.

Oliver played for the Bulldogs during the 2004-06 seasons, starting in '06, and was a member of the San Diego Chargers from 2007-11. His most memorable performance at Georgia occurred in the rainy '06 game against Georgia Tech, when he held Yellow Jackets star receiver Calvin Johnson to two catches for 13 yards.

"It's heartbreaking for me personally, for our staff, for the Bulldog Nation I'm sure, and obviously for his family," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. "I was crushed this morning when I heard it, quite frankly."

ATHENS, Ga. — Simplicity still has its place in college football, with a great exhibit likely occurring this Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

LSU and Georgia will look to establish the run with their powerful tailbacks in order to bring the opposing defenses up and leave those defenses in some challenging one-on-one predicaments. This not-so-complicated ploy is also used extensively by Alabama and Florida within the Southeastern Conference, though the Gators may not currently possess the passing potential of the other three.

"I just think that's the secret to winning in this league," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "You've got to try and establish the run and be committed to it. You've got to be able to throw the ball a little bit more than in years past, just because everybody's better offensively."

Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU combined to go 43-5 last year in the regular season, and that quartet is obviously no stranger to top-10 recruiting classes.

The Bulldogs and Tigers will introduce one another to bruising sophomore tailbacks who command respect. Georgia's 232-pound Todd Gurley is averaging 125.7 yards a game and 6.0 yards a carry, while LSU's 235-pound Jeremy Hill is averaging 117.0 yards a game and 8.4 yards a carry.

"It's always good when you can line up and play football," Bulldogs defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. "You don't have to worry about tricks and razzle-dazzle kinds of things. This is what you look forward to playing against. This is real football."

Neither LSU nor Georgia have dominant rushing defenses to this point, ranking seventh and eighth within the SEC, but the Bulldogs have been solid against runs up the middle. Georgia allowed 226 rushing yards to South Carolina, but a 75-yard chunk of that came when Mike Davis bounced a play outside, and the Bulldogs yielded just seven rushing yards last week against North Texas.

"I think our guys up front have done a good job," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said, "and I think we've progressed each week as far as setting the edge on the formation with the outside backers or whoever the force player is. We've been pretty stout inside, and guys on the perimeter have improved their tackling each week and getting guys down. I think the longest run against North Texas was eight yards, which is a good thing, so I think we're moving in the right direction.

"We're obviously facing a talented team that can run the ball and is very physical. They're a good downhill team, so we know we've got a challenge."

Hill scored touchdowns the first two times he touched the ball against Auburn last Saturday, but he's not LSU's only weapon. Speed threat Terrence Magee is averaging 7.6 yards a carry on 29 rushes, Alfred Blue is averaging 4.9 yards a rush on 36 carries, and then there's quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

A former Georgia signee, Mettenberger is averaging 256.5 passing yards a game and ranks sixth nationally in efficiency.

"They have a method behind what they do from a matchup standpoint," Grantham said. "They're calling plays designed to isolate guys on certain people, and there is some strategy involved in that. They obviously do a good job in both the run and the pass, and they're averaging like 480 yards a game.

"It's always a guessing game if it's a run or a pass, and when they do both equally well, it makes it difficult to manage that."

Georgia could look to establish Gurley before turning to Aaron Murray, who ranks fourth nationally in efficiency and has touchdown passes of 86 and 98 yards in the past two games.

If recent history is any indication, whoever dominates up front will win. There have been six LSU-Georgia meetings since Mark Richt started guiding the Bulldogs before the 2001 season, and the team that wins the rushing battle is 6-0.

"They're not going to try and trick you," Richt said. "There just going to line up and maul you. That's their goal. Then they'll be able to create some good matchups with some great receivers and a quarterback who can sling it."

Said Bulldogs linebacker Jordan Jenkins: "If we can't stop their run, we won't ever get the chance to rush the passer. It's just straight up football with one team trying to out physical the other. It's going to be a fun game."

Odds and ends

The Bulldogs practiced Wednesday for a third straight day in full pads, which Richt said was good for tempo and frame of mind. ... Junior-college receiver Jonathon Rumph (hamstring) is expected to miss his fifth straight game, but Richt would still like to play him this season. ... Offensive line coach Will Friend said that Watts Dantzler of Dalton played about 20 snaps at right guard last Saturday and did well after a good week of practice.

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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