Points off turnovers not an issue for Georgia

photo Linebacker Ramik Wilson makes a tackle during Georgia's game with Arkansas.

The Georgia Bulldogs have played 10 games, 40 quarters and 600 minutes this football season.

In all that time, they have allowed just six points off turnovers.

"It's really kind of hard to believe that's the number," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We've had some timely stops when we've had our backs against the wall, and quite frankly, we've had very few turnovers all year."

The NCAA does not keep points off turnovers as an official statistic, but the Bulldogs do lead the nation in fewest turnovers committed with six. Oregon and Rice are tied for second with seven, while Missouri is second in the Southeastern Conference with 11.

Georgia is also plus-16 in turnover margin, which ranks second nationally to Michigan State's plus-18.

"Other than the score, I think that's the most important stat," Richt said. "People have done studies for years at every level of football, and if you're in the negative in turnover ratio, you have a much greater chance of losing. Obviously if you're in the positive, you have a much greater chance of winning.

"If you go by the statistics, that's the stat you would like to gravitate to for your team."

The Bulldogs have not lost the turnover ratio in any game this season, posting a plus-five in the 34-0 win at Missouri on Oct. 11 and a plus-four the following week in a 45-32 win at Arkansas. Georgia had a plus-three ratio in last Saturday night's 34-7 win over Auburn.

As a result, Georgia yielding six points off turnovers in Jeremy Pruitt's first season as defensive coordinator is on pace to be the fewest in the 14-year Richt era. The 2010 Bulldogs, who were in their first season under former coordinator Todd Grantham, allowed 24 points off 16 turnovers.

The six points allowed have been harmless, and they in no way reflected any defensive deficiencies.

Early in the third quarter of an eventual 44-17 win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 4, Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason was intercepted by safety Jahmel McIntosh, who had a 35-yard return to Georgia's 24. Georgia's defense stiffened and forced a 34-yard Tommy Openshaw field goal that pulled the Commodores within 27-10.

The other field goal given up after a turnover occurred early in the second quarter of the 63-31 rout of Kentucky on Nov. 8, when Georgia's Quayvon Hicks fumbled a short kickoff. The Wildcats recovered at the Georgia 23, but the Bulldogs didn't budge and forced a 38-yard Austin MacGinnis field goal that got Kentucky within 21-10.

"That's one of the things that Coach Pruitt stresses," senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson said. "He constantly tells us to not look at the scoreboard and to just play the same no matter what has just happened. We actually like the pressure of being out there in tough situations, but there haven't been as many of those this season."

The lack of turnovers has aided a Georgia offense that is averaging 42.1 points per game entering Saturday's game against visiting Charleston Southern. The defense certainly has done its share to minimize damage when those rare turnovers do occur.

And the overall team has benefited as well, taking an 8-2 record and a No. 10 ranking into their final two regular-season contests.

"It's been very good, and I don't want to start bragging too much," Richt said. "We have fumbled the ball a good many times, and we've gotten on them. It's not like we've been perfect in our ball security.

"We've just been fortunate to get on the fumbles we've had."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.