ATHENS, Ga. (AP)—Georgia’s offense finally showed up, and the Bulldogs now truly look like a team that’s capable of challenging for a national championship.
The LSU Tigers? Their hopes of making another run at No. 1 are finished.
David Greene set a school record by throwing five touchdown passes and No. 3 Georgia got a huge victory in the Southeastern Conference, shredding 13th-ranked LSU and its fearsome defense 45-16 on Saturday.
“It was something you probably just dream about,” Greene said.
Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) has never been an offensive juggernaut during Mark Richt’s four years as coach, and the last two games were especially frustrating. The Bulldogs scored only three touchdowns in defensive-led victories over South Carolina and Marshall.
“I was little befuddled,” Richt admitted. “We had practiced extremely well. We had some guys who could make plays. I was trying to figure out why we couldn’t make those plays in the game.”
Problem solved. Less than 21 minutes into this one, Georgia already had reached the end zone three times against a defense that was ranked fifth nationally in both points and yards allowed.
By the end, LSU (3-2, 1-2) had given up its most points since a 56-13 loss to Florida in 1996.
“This was a curveball to me,” Tigers coach Nick Saban said. “When things like this happen, you must dig deep down inside.”
Greene completed only 10 of 19 passes for 172 yards, but half his completions went for TDs. He tied Johnny Rauch as the winningest quarterback in Georgia history with his 36th victory as a starter.
Reggie Brown had two TD catches and set a career high with 110 yards receiving. Fred Gibson also had a pair of scoring passes.
LSU cornerback Trey Daniels had an especially miserable day, getting burned on three of Greene’s touchdowns.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the Tigers’ blitzing scheme, protecting well up the middle and relying on their receivers to beat the man-on-man coverage.
“Greene just put the ball up in the air and told us to go get it,” Gibson said. “I guess they were shocked. We came out and really didn’t do anything wrong.”
The Bulldogs didn’t just pass the ball. Freshman Danny Ware, who sat out the last game with a bruised lung, rushed for 109 yards. Another freshman, Thomas Brown, chipped in with 81 yards and scored Georgia’s final touchdown on a short run.
The Georgia defense made life miserable for LSU quarterbacks Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell, who spent most of the afternoon running for their lives and wound up getting sacked five times. Hard-hitting safety Thomas Davis caused two fumbles by Tigers running backs, both of them leading to Georgia touchdowns.
The Tigers claimed the BCS share of the national title last season, but there won’t be any repeat. LSU already has more losses than its championship team.
That’s not the only change from 2003.
LSU beat the Bulldogs twice on their way to No. 1, including a 34-13 rout in last year’s SEC championship game. Georgia avenged the worst loss of the Richt era with a replay of that December game, only it was the red and black dominating this one.
“I didn’t see it coming,” said LSU cornerback Corey Webster, who also gave up a TD pass. “We made those plays last year.”
The Bulldogs raced to a 24-0 lead, withstood a brief flurry from LSU at the end of the first half and sealed the victory in the third quarter.
On Georgia’s second possession, Greene lofted a perfect pass down the right side, Reggie Brown outjumped Daniels for the ball and got a foot down just inside the pylon for a 25-yard touchdown catch.
D.J. Shockley relieved Greene on Georgia’s next possession, completing a 47-yard pass to Brown that set up Andy Bailey’s 32-yard field goal.
The Bulldogs didn’t let up. Davis jarred the ball loose from Justin Vincent and Quentin Moses recovered at the LSU 35. Greene went back in and finished off the drive with a 2-yard TD pass to Gibson, who leaped over Daniels to make it 17-0.
LSU fumbled the ball right back. Davis stuck his helmet into Jacob Hester’s belly, the ball came flying out and Odell Thurman fell on it at the LSU 40.
Georgia took advantage again. Thomas Brown converted a fourth-and-1 by breaking a tackle in the backfield, then Greene floated a 29-yard scoring pass to Reggie Brown, who made a leaping catch and somehow got a toe down before tumbling out of bounds. Once again, Daniels was the man getting beat.
Down by 24 points, the Tigers finally showed signs of life. Russell threw an 18-yard TD pass to Dwayne Bowe with 1:23 left in the half, and the Tigers got the ball back after a short punt. Russell completed a 24-yard pass to Craig Davis, leading to Chris Jackson’s 31-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
LSU went off the field with some momentum, but it didn’t last long. Greene threw two more touchdown passes in the third to make it 38-10—a 24-yarder to Gibson and a 21-yarder to Sean Bailey, the first TD of his career.
The Bulldogs have another crucial SEC game next week against No. 10 Tennessee. Now, at least, they know their offense can keep up with the other side of the line.
“Hopefully,” Richt said, “this will give us some confidence, some momentum. We needed a boost for sure.”