Georgia was missing several key players last week, and still routed an overmatched Louisiana-Monroe team. With those players due back Saturday night, the Bulldogs look for another dominant performance when they face SEC rival Mississippi State.
Led by the second stringers, the seventh-ranked Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0) pounded Louisiana-Monroe 44-7 at Sanford Stadium last week. Danny Ware rushed for 109 yards in place of injured tailback Thomas Brown, Martrez Milner caught three passes for 79 yards and a touchdown while starting at tight end for the suspended Leonard Pope, and Danny Verdun Wheeler took over for injured linebacker Jarvis Jackson and led Georgia with 11 tackles.
The Bulldogs also were without starting receiver Sean Bailey, but Georgia still rolled to 543 total yards with its most balanced attack of the year.
“I’m glad that’s over with,” coach Mark Richt said after his team committed 11 penalties for 99 yards and lost two fumbles in an otherwise strong showing.
Richt won’t have to worry about putting the game in the hands of unproven players again against Mississippi State, as Brown, Pope, Jackson and Bailey are expected back, along with linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
The Bulldogs led 17-0 at the half against Louisiana-Monroe but had a scare when the Indians recovered an onside kick and went on a 53-yard touchdown drive. Georgia answered with 17 third-quarter points to pull away, led by quarterback D.J. Shockley, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown and added a 28-yard touchdown run in his three quarters.
Georgia opened its schedule with three satisfying wins in Athens, the best being a 17-15 victory over old nemesis Steve Spurrier and South Carolina on Sept. 10. Georgia’s first road test will be a tough one, with the raucous atmosphere of Starkville’s Davis Wade Stadium awaiting them—something Richt knows all about from his playing days as a quarterback at Miami.
“We’re excited about playing this game,” Richt said. “It’s the first time for the players and for (the coaches) to play them, but I remember how loud and wild it seemed to be up in the stands when I played there as a player and how hostile their stadium can be. And we haven’t been away to play in a long time, since our bowl game, so we’ll see how we handle that.”
Mississippi State (2-1) will be looking for its second straight win after defeating Tulane last week. Playing in Shreveport, La., because of Hurricane Katrina, the Bulldogs spoiled the Green Wave’s delayed season opener as Jerious Norwood ran for a late 17-yard touchdown to give Mississippi State the 21-14 victory.
Omarr Conner overcame a slow start and finished 13-of-26 for 108 yards, throwing touchdown passes of 3 yards to Norwood and 18 yards to Eric Butler in Mississippi State’s first win away from Starkville in nearly three years. Norwood finished with 99 yards on 21 carries for the Bulldogs.
“I was frustrated, but I’m not going to take it out on the guys because they found a way to win,” Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said of his team’s sometimes sloppy play. “It was not easy with all the situations surrounding this game.”
Georgia owns a 14-5 edge in the series with Mississippi State, including 3-1 in Starkville.