September 30, 2012

Slowing Lattimore key

Unlike some games, there's not a whole lot of mystery as to what fifth-ranked Georgia needs to do in order to have some success Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium against No. 6 South Carolina - find some way to slow down Marcus Lattimore.

So far, that's been much easier said than done.
The Gamecocks, who bounced back from a 17-7 deficit Saturday night to Kentucky to beat the Wildcats 38-17, have certainly had the Bulldogs' number the past two seasons, thanks largely to Lattimore who has rushed 64 times for 358 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia.

Considering Lattimore is one of those rare backs who often gets stronger as the game goes along, that's not necessarily good news for a Bulldog squad which ranks ninth in the league in rushing defense, allowing 147 yards per game.

Saturday against Tennessee, Georgia gave up 130 yards rushing to the Volunteers in the second half alone.

"If a back begins to really finish his runs with some physicality, at times guys get tired of that, even our man (Todd) Gurley. He was running in such a way by the end of the game that nobody wanted to take him on, other than to go low," head coach Mark Richt said during his Sunday teleconference. "People get tired of that pounding and Lattimore's been able to have enough stamina to pound people, and people begin to misfit just a little bit when fatigue sets in. They're not quite as strong when they tackle, the guy starts breaking tackles and all of a sudden he breaks one, gets a lot of space and gets big runs."

To date, Lattimore has rushed 44 times for 440 yards and eight touchdowns following his 23 carry, 120-yard effort against Kentucky.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Lattimore is not Richt's only concern.

While the defense must concern itself with Lattimore, Georgia's offensive line has to contend with a front four which many believe is the tops in the SEC, led by defensive ends Devin Taylor (6-foot-8, 267 pounds) and Jadeveon Clowney (6-6, 256).

"Those guys are outstanding, no doubt about it. They're super-tall, athletic, really have outstanding technique and are much more physical against the run than they were last year. They really are complete players," Richt said. "You can't just slide your protection to one guy without freeing up the other guy to have some opportunities one-on-one."

Left tackle Kenarious Gates and freshmen right tackle John Theus will be the men under the spotlight for the Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0).

"We'll probably do a little chipping and double-sliding, but there will be times when the guy is going to have to man up and block them," Richt said. "I just hope we have a good mixture of run, pass and play-action to keep them a little to where they're not 100 percent sure if we're going to drop back and throw the football. We've just got to find a way to keep them off balance."

The game figures to be somewhat of a contrast in styles.

Although Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw is certainly no slouch and South Carolina is averaging 36 points per game, many observers see Saturday's game (7 p.m., ESPN) as a direct contrast. The Bulldogs are tied with Texas A&M for the top spot in scoring offense (48.2 points per game), while South Carolina (5-0, 3-0) is allowing just 11.2 points per contest, second-fewest in the league behind Alabama.

Richt just knows there's a ton at stake for both programs.

With LSU and Florida meeting in another battle of the unbeatens, a Tiger win over the Gators would leave the Georgia-South Carolina winner alone atop the SEC East standings.

"At the end of the day it's possible that the winner of this game will be in first place, or tied for first place," Richt said. "The winner of this game will be in first place and the loser two games behind. We all know that head-to-head is not going to help, so whoever loses is going to have the other lose twice. It's just a big game when you're playing this deep in the conference season. It's an understatement to say this is huge."