LINCOLN — Georgia allowed 6.9 yards per carry against Alabama in the SEC title game, but when Mark Richt was asked Wednesday about his defense's performance two weeks ago, the Bulldogs' coach started talking about his offense.
Not that the defense was without fault — Richt soon would admit that the Bulldogs should have tackled better, and they eventually wore down while failing to properly follow through with their run support responsibilities.
But Georgia's offense had a role to play in run defense, too. He was counting on the offense to build an early lead before Alabama found its rhythm (the Crimson Tide had 325 of their 350 rushing yards in the final three quarters). Instead, Georgia entered the second half down 10-7.
“As a team, our goal is to get a team out of their game plan,” Richt said on a teleconference Wednesday. “A lot of things have to go right to stop a good run game.”
One would assume the same philosophy will be in place at the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, when No. 5 Georgia faces off against No. 23 Nebraska and its eighth-ranked rushing offense.
Completely shutting down the explosive Huskers won't be easy, especially for a defense that's struggled lately against high-powered run games.
Georgia, which ranks 78th nationally in run defense, gave up 302 on the ground in a blowout win over Georgia Southern, the top rush offense in the FCS. The next week, Georgia Tech and its fourth-ranked option attack gashed the Bulldogs for 306. Then it was a downhill-style pounding in a 32-28 heartbreaking loss to Alabama, which ranks 20th nationally on the ground.
And up next are the Huskers, whose versatile ground game features diverse threats who'll complicate the preparation process. Sophomore I-back Ameer Abdullah's averaging 83.8 yards per game and quarterback Taylor Martinez is at 74.8. Senior Rex Burkhead, in limited action, is averaging 7.2 yards per carry (74 attempts).
“It's not just one guy. That's kind of the thing that concerns you a little bit,” Richt said. “They can run inside, outside. They've got power, they've got spread. And they've got a quarterback who can create on plays that are designed to be a pass.”
Nebraska's blend of power and option sort of reminds senior linebacker Christian Robinson of Florida's approach. The Gators ran for just 75 yards on 40 carries in a 17-9 Georgia win two months ago.
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What worked that afternoon?
“We've got to be disciplined, everybody doing their job,” Robinson said. “When 11 guys on defense for us are doing their job, we're lights out.”
Georgia reconvened Wednesday to start practicing for the Capital One Bowl with that goal in mind. The Bulldogs will work for 10 straight days before taking a break for Christmas.
So the evaluation of Nebraska is still in its preliminary stages. Robinson had watched only the UCLA-NU game when he spoke with reporters Wednesday.
Robinson complimented the Nebraska offensive line — a big, athletic unit, he said.
But Georgia will be highly motivated to stop the run, according to Robinson.
“We want to go out on the right note,” he said.
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