Georgia vs. Vanderbilt
When: 12:21 Saturday
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
TV, radio: Peachtree TV; 103.7-FM, 106.1-FM
Web site: www.georgiadogs.com
ATHENS — Coach Mark Richt would love to see Georgia rush for even half of the 172 yards Knowshon Moreno provided in last year’s win over Vanderbilt.
When the Bulldogs visit Vanderbilt on Saturday, they will arrive with a rushing attack that averages 97.2 yards to rank 104th in the nation and last in the Southeastern Conference.
“Guys are going to have to make plays,” Richt said this week. “Guys are going to have to get in situations and do something to kind of break the dam.”
Vanderbilt could provide a tonic of sorts. The Commodores (2-4, 0-3 SEC) are the league’s second-worst run defense in allowing an average of 170.2 yards.
Given how Georgia (3-3, 2-2) has struggled without Moreno, who left after his junior year and became the NFL’s 12th overall draft pick, Richt can take nothing for granted.
Since Richard Samuel ran for 104 of Georgia’s season-high 155 yards four weeks ago at Arkansas, the Bulldogs have averaged just 75.3 over the last three games.
Losing 45-19 a week ago at Tennessee exposed an offense that’s become one-dimensional. Either quarterback Joe Cox connects with SEC-leading receiver A.J. Green or the Bulldogs sputter.
“Big plays build momentum, and we didn’t have any this past game,” Cox said. “It’s definitely something that we need in this weekend’s game against Vanderbilt. Big plays turn the momentum for both sides of the ball, especially big plays in the running game.”
Richt indicated earlier this week that Samuel probably will start his seventh straight game at tailback, but Caleb King is expected to resume his role as the primary backup if returns from a concussion and broken jaw.
Carlton Thomas and Washuan Ealey also could take some snaps.
“No one has really stood out,” Richt said. “No one has really asserted himself to the point where he’s our guy. Part of Caleb’s issue has been messing around with injuries all the way throughout. Richard has been solid. I think they’ve all been kind of solid, nothing spectacular.”
Moreno’s departure was more significant, but the Bulldogs also miss the blocking of four-year starting fullback Brannan Southerland. Shaun Chapas, his replacement, has fared as poorly as the lineman in clearing space for the tailbacks.
Personnel changes have hurt the offensive line, which is without Trinton Sturdivant after the starting left tackle underwent reconstructive knee surgery for the second straight year.
Vince Vance started the second and third games at left tackle, followed by Cordy Glenn in the last three. Glenn has also started at both guard spots.
And Richt believes the tailbacks are too hesitant.
“No one really has made the offensive line look better than maybe they are blocking at times,” the coach said. “I do see improvement. Guys don’t get better until they get experience.”