ATHENS -- Note to Georgia: Remember what you do best.
This appears to be one of the biggest lessons the Bulldogs learned after its 38-10 loss against Alabama last Saturday. In Georgia’s first four games, the Bulldogs excelled at running the ball inside with tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
In the first half against the Crimson Tide, Georgia attempted to run the ball outside the tackles on a rainy day with Alabama bottling those plays up. Upon reviewing the game film, head coach Mark Richt said the Bulldogs shouldn’t have called as many outside runs as they did.
“I think strategically, we’d have been better off trying to go downhill more than try to go outside, and with the wet turf and just some matchups we had out there on the edge,” Richt said. “I think our best shot would have been to go downhill against them.”
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The best example came late in the third quarter with the Bulldogs down 38-3. Georgia called an inside run through the A-gap, and running back Nick Chubb burst through for an 83-yard touchdown run.
Georgia finished the game with 193 rushing yards, normally indicative of a good performance.
Take away Chubb’s long pickup, however, and the Bulldogs only mustered 110 rushing yards with an average of 3 yards per carry.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer echoed what Richt said and stated the running game should have focused inside more than out.
“We wanted to test the edges,” Schottenheimer said. “They’re big, strong, physical guys. We probably did it a few times too often, to tell you the truth. A couple of times, they ran through on the backside. I think we probably could’ve gotten to it a little bit earlier. That’s obviously on me. We went in there wanting to see if we could get the ball outside a little bit, cut them down on the backside. They did a good job defending that.”
This week, Georgia faces a Tennessee run defense that has given up 171.6 rushing yards per game, ranking 11th in the SEC. In last week’s 24-20 loss to Arkansas, the Volunteers surrendered a total of 275 yards on the ground.
It would seem this game is a much better matchup than what Georgia just went through against Alabama. The Crimson Tide didn’t need to commit eight men in the box to stop the run. With Tennessee, there likely will be more attention paid to stopping Georgia’s rushing attack based on the personnel it’s working with.
Even so, Georgia running backs coach Thomas Brown said the Volunteers have enough capable players to make things difficult for Chubb and Sony Michel.
“They’re a physical bunch, they’re tough against the run,” Brown said. “They’re going to do everything they can to try and stop it. They’re pretty dang good at stopping it, in my opinion, at times. It will be a big challenge for us.”
With Georgia getting away from the inside run in the first half of last week’s loss, there appears to be an emphasis of making sure that aspect doesn’t get lost this week.
Georgia’s offense won’t have a problem moving the ball if the running game is clicking. In its absence, things become increasingly more difficult.
“We just need to be consistent,” Michel said. “It’s kind of hard. We are working on it right now. We just need to know what we do well and focus in on what we do well. We need to make sure we don’t get away from it.”