ATHENS, Ga. - Thanks to Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, Georgia now leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing defense.
The Bulldogs are allowing 99.2 rushing yards per game after holding Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky to an average of 45.7 the past three weeks. Georgia is on pace to finish with its best average since the 1981 Bulldogs allowed 72.5 rushing yards a game.
"I don't know if our defense has ever led a category since I've been here," redshirt sophomore cornerback Sanders Commings said Tuesday. "It feels good to lead the SEC in something."
LSU led the SEC in rushing defense last week, but that was before the Tigers allowed 440 rushing yards in their 24-17 loss at Auburn. Newton had a season-high 217 yards, and Auburn's punishing performance resulted in LSU plummeting from first (83.6) to seventh (128.1) in the league.
The Bulldogs, who face Auburn on Nov. 13, have been stout since getting shredded for 235 rushing yards Oct. 2 at Colorado. They got off to a slow start when South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore amassed 182 yards on 37 carries on Sept. 11.
"That was the second game of the season," said senior inside linebacker Akeem Dent, who is second in the league with 9.6 tackles a game. "Things just happened the way they happened. Right now, we're the top-ranked rushing defense in the SEC, and that's a tribute to what we've done to progress over the last couple of weeks."
Staying silent again
For the second consecutive year, Georgia sophomore tight end Orson Charles is not making himself available for interviews before the Florida game.
In April 2008, Charles attended a prospect camp in Gainesville and was outside the office of Gators coach Urban Meyer when he accidentally shattered Florida's 2006 BCS title trophy made of Waterford crystal and valued at $35,000. The trophy was on display along with the 2007 Heisman Trophy won by Tim Tebow.
Charles was then a teammate of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray at Tampa's Plant High School and called Murray, who was on his was to Gainesville, to inform him of the news.
"When we got back to Tampa, obviously everyone was talking about it," Murray said. "He was a little embarrassed, and people gave him a hard time, but now that he's up at Georgia, I told him to cherish it. I would put it on Facebook and Twitter that I did something like that. It was a crazy event when it happened, though."
Florida received another 2006 title trophy and won another one several months later.
The strangest stat
Georgia is 4-4 this season but 3-0 when a tailback is suspended.
Washaun Ealey sat out the opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette following his August arrest for hit-and-run of a parked vehicle and driving on a suspended license. Caleb King missed the past two victories over Vanderbilt and Kentucky for failing to show up at an August court date to address a speeding ticket he received in June.
Asked Tuesday if he would suspend a tailback this week, coach Mark Richt smiled and said, "It's early yet."
Odds and ends
Georgia junior Justin Houston is one of 15 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation's top linebacker. ... Sophomore tailback Washaun Ealey sprained an MCL during the fourth quarter of the win at Kentucky but practiced Tuesday and should play Saturday. ... Florida is entering a game unranked for the first time under Meyer, who is in his sixth season. ... Some impressive punts are expected Saturday, with Florida's Chas Henry averaging 49.3 yards an attempt and Georgia's Drew Butler averaging 45.5. ... Georgia leads this series 47-39-2 according to Georgia records and 46-39-2 according to Florida records.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.