ATHENS, Ga. -- To Georgia coach Mark Richt, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The five consecutive 40-plus-point games (a school record), the 536 yards per game and all that firepower. None of that seemed like a reality when Richt was wincing his way through spring practice.
“If you guys could have seen our first practice in the spring, you would have just shook your head and said we had no chance,” Richt said. “Our offensive line was just getting the tar beat out of them and we just didn’t look very good at all.”
Now, that offensive line that received a complete makeover and reeked of concern is outmuscling opponents, providing time and opening holes to make the Bulldogs a deadly offensive threat.
Richt saw a mess this spring, but watched a well-oiled machine run through, around and over the Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC) defense in Georgia’s wild 51-44 victory over the Vols inside Sanford Stadium Saturday.
The fifth-ranked Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0) put on an offensive clinic in front of a crowd of 92,746, gouging the Vols however they could, whenever they could, recording 10 plays that went for 15 or more yards, with seven going for 20 or more.
Tennessee might not have the stoutest defense, but it was no contest when Georgia’s offense stepped on the field. Equipped with a sensationally balanced attack, the Bulldogs registered 560 yards of total offense, averaging 8.8 yards per play.
Freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, or “Gurshall,” combined for 294 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries. Marshall, who had a game-high 164 yards, ripped off scores of 75 and 72 yards. And quarterback Aaron Murray toasted Tennessee’s defensive backfield with his 278 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-25 passing.
Coming into the season, it was Georgia’s defense that was supposed to carry this team. The defense was supposed to win games. The defense was supposed to be mighty.
Well, five games in, the offense is far more impressive and ferocious. With the balance this group possesses, Georgia’s offense could carry this team in 2012.
“We’re amazingly balanced,” said sophomore receiver Michael Bennett, who caught five passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. “We have two 100-yard rushers and Aaron throwing for 250 [yards] every game. It’s amazing, and we have to keep that up.”
So far, no one has been able to stop this juggernaut of an offense, and it’ll take a heck of an effort to slow down these Dawgs.
“It’s tough to defend us when you really don’t know [what they’ll do],” Murray said. “We’re spread open everywhere with receivers, the running game.”
But as Richt said, this wasn’t what was expected from this offense. Outside of the ugly moments this spring, some players worried that this year’s product would have some of last year’s issues. There was a lack of explosion, especially in the running game, and poor execution hurt the Dawgs in key situations.
Mistakes seemed to pop up at the wrong times, sending the team scrambling. But Saturday, it was the offense that owned the night and propelled a team that couldn’t get much of anything going on defense.
With glaring assignment issues on defense fueling a furious Tennessee comeback, Georgia’s offense stood tall and shouldered the responsibility of carrying this team to the finish, scoring on all but three drives directly following a Tennessee score.
“Last year, I felt like we did some things that didn’t help the defense out, but I know this year, we’ve put that behind us,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “I know the offense worked harder in the offseason.
“We trusted them last year, but at the same time, they’re making more plays this year than they did last year.”
Added offensive guard Chris Burnette: “We’re moving a lot faster. Up front, we’re a little smarter. Guys really know what to do and that’s made a big difference.”
And you have to give credit to the offensive coaches, especially offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. He’s taken his fair share of criticism over the years, but he has equipped Georgia with its most explosive offense of the Richt era by putting guys in the right spots and creating mismatches.
When you look at the SEC, no team is running and throwing the ball as well as Georgia. No team has matched this sort of explosion. And if the Bulldogs continue to light up the scoreboard and gouge defenses like this, no one might be able to stop the Bulldogs when they have the ball.
“We’re feeling good,” Murray said. “We still have some work to do ... but we have to keep working hard and keep getting better and I think this offense is going to be very dangerous.”