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Georgia photo by Tony Walsh / Georgia controlled the ball for nearly 36 minutes during Saturday's 24-17 downing of Florida, with junior tailback D'Andre Swift rushing 25 times for 86 hard-earned yards.

ATHENS, Ga. — Ticktock, ticktock, the Georgia Bulldogs are controlling the clock.

They're loving every second of it, too.

Georgia leads all Southeastern Conference football teams this season in time of possession, owning the ball for an average of 33 minutes and 54 seconds per game. In Saturday's 24-17 downing of Florida in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs gobbled up 35 minutes and 48 seconds.

"It helps us a lot," Bulldogs senior tight end Charlie Woerner said Monday. "It gives our defense time to rest on the sideline, and it has kept the ball away from Florida and our other opponents. It's a big thing for us, because it wears the other defenses down. By the end of the game, they're tired.

"When you look at it from the outside, it's kind of obvious — you want to hold the ball more than they do."

Time of possession is not for everybody.

Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier referred to it as an overrated statistic when his Fun-N-Gun offenses were lighting up scoreboards a generation ago, and current Alabama coach Nick Saban said earlier this season that he would never apologize for scoring quickly. Saban did express, however, an importance in keeping his defenders from enduring an excessive number of snaps.

That was not the case with Georgia last weekend, as the Gators ran just 52 plays.

"Winning the time of possession gives us a lot of time to rest and a lot of time to make adjustments from the last drive we had," junior safety Richard LeCounte III said. "In this last game, we had a lot of time between our possessions."

Said senior inside linebacker Tae Crowder: "On offense, we're wanting to keep our foot on their neck and keep going, and we're getting a lot of time on defense to make adjustments to all the things we've missed."

Georgia has won the time of possession in all eight games this season, with the No. 6 Bulldogs (7-1 overall, 4-1) looking to extend that trend this Saturday night against visiting Missouri (5-3, 2-2). The Bulldogs held the ball for 36:28 during their 43-14 win over Tennessee and for 36:04 in the 20-17 double-overtime loss to South Carolina.

"One of our objectives on offense is to win the time of possession," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. "It's one of the 15 or 20 things that we list. Winning that battle was important Saturday, and it's important in every game to win the time of possession, but it can be misleading for explosive teams."

Time of possession may not be discussed at all this Saturday afternoon during the potential free-wheeling game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, but it's a constant for the Bulldogs, who always seek to establish the run and will not quit until that is accomplished.

Junior running back D'Andre Swift pounded out 25 carries for 86 yards against the Gators, including five rushes for 20 yards before Jake Fromm connected with Lawrence Cager for a 52-yard touchdown with 10:01 remaining that put the Bulldogs up 24-10.

"Teams are doing things to us that aren't normal," Smart said. "They've got five defensive linemen in, when most people have four, but they're taking risks when they do that, too. We've got to find more ways to expose that. They know that we're hell-bent on running it, and they're hell-bent on stopping it.

"If you don't run the ball in this league, pass-rushers will chew you up. You have to keep them honest and wear them down. I know people think it's boring because it's not explosive, but in this league, you've got to be able to have the threat of that to sustain."

Georgia winning the time of possession each weekend could be more beneficial now than ever, given that the Bulldogs are closing this regular season with five games in five weeks against Power Five opposition. Though controlling the clock may not always be exciting, it can be fun for those involved.

"It continually helps us win games every week, and it shows that we're executing," Woerner said. "It's hard to have long drives, because you can mess up, but they show that you've been practicing really hard. In the first quarter, you hit somebody, and there may be a little movement. In the second, you hit them, and they move back a little more.

"By the fourth, you're hitting them and hitting them and getting those big runs. Imposing our will has been something Coach Smart has ingrained in us since I got here. We want to make our opponents not want to play us again. It's just Georgia. We run the ball."

Odds and ends

Crowder and Alabama's Anfernee Jennings are the SEC's lone two semifinalists for this year's Butkus Award. Next week's game at Auburn was officially announced by CBS as a 3:30 p.m. EST kickoff. Sophomore cornerback Tyson Campbell warmed up Saturday but wasn't at 100% and didn't play, Smart said. Georgia holds a 7-1 series lead on Mizzou.

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

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