ATHENS, Ga. -- There are a couple of ways in which Georgia can limit Georgia Tech's triple-option offense Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The first is obvious.
"You have to be disciplined," Bulldogs senior defensive tackle Kade Weston said. "Everybody has to focus on their own assignment and don't try to be a hero or anything. The key is to have everybody responsible for his own assignment, whatever your matchup is."
Playing responsible defense worked for a while last year, as the Bulldogs held the Yellow Jackets to 142 first-half yards and built a 28-12 lead. Georgia Tech erupted in the second half, however, running through and past Georgia defenders for a 45-42 win.
The Yellow Jackets rushed 34 times for 286 yards (8.4 yards per carry) in the third and fourth quarters and never attempted a pass. They ran nine more second-half plays than Georgia and had a whopping nine-minute advantage in possession time.
Which brings Georgia to its second potential way of limiting Tech's offense -- keep it off the field.
"I think that's very important," Bulldogs quarterback Joe Cox said. "Any time one team has the ball a lot and has long drives for touchdowns or field goals, it kind of makes the other team's offense a little antsy. It makes them want to hurry up and score and kind of get things back to even.
"It's a really important part to this game, especially against an offense like theirs that can score from anywhere on the field. We need to be able to control the ball, move the chains and put points up."
Wanting to control the clock against Georgia Tech and accomplishing that feat reflect the difference between hope and reality. The Yellow Jackets lead the nation in average possession time with 34 minutes, 25 seconds a game and were dominant in their biggest Atlantic Coast Conference victories.
They had the ball for more than 42 minutes in a 24-7 win over North Carolina and a 34-9 win at Virginia, and they had it for 38:22 in their 28-23 win over Virginia Tech.
Only Miami controlled the clock against Tech, having possession for 33:35 in a 33-17 win over the Yellow Jackets on Sept. 17. That was Tech's lone hiccup of a 10-1 season.
"Everybody talked about how Miami shut us down offensively," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "But if you go look at the tape, we never had the ball. In the second half, we had the ball three times and scored two touchdowns. What Miami did was a good job of controlling the ball and a good job of scoring.
"We could never close any ground or catch up, so the game kind of got away from us."
Georgia coach Mark Richt believes Tech's triple-option offense is impressive not only from a possession standpoint but its ability to compile first downs. The Yellow Jackets have converted 82 of 156 third-down opportunities (52.6 percent) this season and 11 of 19 fourth-down tries (57.9 percent).
Keeping his offense on the field, Richt admits, will be paramount to success.
"Time of possession is an important statistic, but I think if you really want to study what would be more important would be number of plays run," he said. "Back when I was in a no-huddle system, we would never win the time of possession, but there would be times when we ran more plays than they ran."
Georgia ran 16 more plays than Kentucky and amassed 487 total yards last weekend at Sanford Stadium, but the Bulldogs were undone by four second-half turnovers in a 34-27 loss. The miscues overshadowed another solid showing by an improved running game headed by tailbacks Washaun Ealey and Caleb King.
Ealey and King each rushed for 77 yards, and the Bulldogs rushed for 196 overall.
"If we're able to run the ball, then we're able to keep them off the field," Georgia left tackle Clint Boling said. "Any time they stay off the field, we have a better chance of winning, so hopefully we will be able to do that. Especially since we've been running the ball a little better."
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 ...