ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt wants the Bulldogs to get tougher in a hurry.
With No. 12 Arkansas visiting Saturday, Richt is concerned that his players aren’t physical enough on either side of the line.
Last week’s 17-6 loss at South Carolina reinforced Richt’s belief that Georgia plays hard, but lacks durability.
“We calculate loafs in a game, and there was not a game where we said we loafed,” Richt said Tuesday. “We did not see that on film. I don’t think there was a lack of effort. We got knocked back. That was the biggest problem — we got knocked back.”
The Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) were embarrassed in the running game at South Carolina, rushing for 61 yards and allowing 189.
Richt knows his team can’t allow another solid beating on the offensive and defensive lines against the Razorbacks (2-0, 0-0).
Georgia will have a hard enough time trying to pressure quarterback Ryan Mallett and coach Bobby Petrino’s prolific passing attack, but if Arkansas runs the ball efficiently, the Bulldogs could spend much of the afternoon playing defense.
That was the case last week as South Carolina led time of possession by 10-plus minutes. The Gamecocks converted nine of 19 third downs, completed 12 of 17 passes for 165 yards and finished with 23 first downs to Georgia’s 11.
Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs fell out of the Top 25 for the first time this early in the season since 2001, Richt’s first year.
“It’s everybody’s responsibility to rest the defense,” he said. “Get a three-and-out, and you can rest all you want. If the offense gets three-and-out, you can get another three-and-out.”
Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray will likely to play a third straight week without A.J. Green, the star receiver who’s currently serving a four-game NCAA suspension for selling a jersey. Richt was hoping to hear Wednesday about the school’s appeal, but he was told “just to hang loose” and maybe Georgia will know Thursday or Friday.
Even if Green were active, the Bulldogs still need better production from a rushing attack that ranks last in the SEC and 89th nationally.
It should help that Washaun Ealey and Caleb King will alternate carries for the first time this season. The pair combined in 2009 for more than 1,300 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, but Ealey was suspended for the season-opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette after a traffic arrest and King couldn’t play last week because of a sprained ankle.
And fullback Shaun Chapas hurt an ankle in the first half last week and did not return.
But even if all three backs are healthy and able, the Bulldogs’ line must improve at extending blocks after Ealey and others averaged 2.3 yards per carry on 26 attempts. Right tackle Josh Davis is upset that the line, which returns five starters from last year, was so easily pushed around.
“We’re going to run the ball, and we’re going to do it very well,” he said. “When we have an experienced offensive line, we should be able to run the ball. I think that was a good learning experience, but it’s not going to happen again.”
Georgia’s new 3-4 defensive scheme struggled badly with gap control up front and left the linebackers too much space to cover against running backs.
Justin Houston, Cornelius Washington, Akeem Dent and Christian Robinson combined for 28 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Though the four linebackers made plenty of plays, South Carolina still finished with 354 total yards and the win.