published Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Bulldog approach

Georgia overcoming double-digit deficits

Audio clip

Mark Richt

Call it guts. Call it resolve. Call it the ol' intestinal fortitude.

Call it whatever, but the Georgia Bulldogs appear to be stocked.

Georgia's 2-0 start in Southeastern Conference football play is mostly the result of a surprisingly stout offense, but that has overshadowed the team's ability to rally from early trouble. The Bulldogs trailed Arkansas 21-10 in the second quarter last Saturday night in Fayetteville before roaring back and claiming a 52-41 win.

A week earlier, Georgia trailed visiting South Carolina 17-7 late in the first quarter before bouncing back for a 41-37 triumph.

"I think it's huge," coach Mark Richt said. "I think the guys are beginning to believe that we're not out of any game at any time. The more you get put into the fire, the more it refines you. It makes you stronger.

"It makes you a little tougher mentally as you go, and I think you gain confidence that when you get in these battle royals, you can be standing there at the end."

Richt's Bulldogs had never won consecutive contests in which they trailed at any point by double digits until the past two weeks. In fact, the last time Georgia turned the trick was in Ray Goff's second season as coach in 1990, when the Bulldogs defeated Southern Miss 18-17 and Alabama 17-16.

The '90 Bulldogs trailed Brett Favre's Golden Eagles 17-6 in the third quarter and trailed the Crimson Tide, who were in their first year under Gene Stallings, 16-6 in the fourth. They almost did it three straight times, trailing East Carolina 9-3 entering the fourth quarter of an eventual 19-15 win.

Sophomore tailback Richard Samuel stopped the bleeding in both games this year, scoring from a yard out against South Carolina to get the Bulldogs within 17-14 and from 80 yards away at Arkansas to make it 21-17. The Bulldogs wound up leading both games by halftime, outscoring the Gamecocks and Razorbacks by a combined 34-6 in the second quarter.

Georgia hosts Arizona State this Saturday night on ESPNU with hopes of avoiding another early deficit. The Bulldogs pounced on the Sun Devils last season in Tempe, taking a 21-3 halftime lead before coasting to a 27-10 win.

"I think they're every bit as good as they were a year ago," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said Monday. "Obviously they are getting better. When you lose guys like Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford offensively, it hurts you early, but Joe Cox is playing extremely well at quarterback."

The Sun Devils are 2-0 following cakewalks against Idaho State (50-3) and Louisiana-Monroe (38-14). Arizona State is a double-digit underdog but has a decided edge in turnover ratio, ranking No. 1 nationally after gathering eight and not losing any.

The Bulldogs are 116th out of 120 Bowl Subdivision teams, gaining two turnovers but losing nine, and that's been the primary reason for the early holes.

"We've got to stop the self-inflicted wounds," Richt said. "If we can do that, we can improve dramatically."

Odds and ends

Cox, who completed 18 of 26 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns at Arkansas, was named Monday the SEC offensive player of the week. ... Erickson is 9-10 at ASU since his 8-0 start in 2007. ... Bulldogs junior cornerback Vance Cuff sprained his MCL late in the third quarter against the Razorbacks and is day-to-day. ... Last Saturday's drive that peeled off 7:11 in the second quarter marked Georgia's longest touchdown march since 1998. ... ASU will be making a 1,913-mile trip this week, its farthest regular-season journey since a 1997 visit to Miami.

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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