- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Leading rusher Isaiah Crowell should be available for Georgia's showdown against Georgia Tech to end the regular season this weekend.
The freshman standout left during the first offensive series in Saturday's game against Kentucky with an ankle injury and did not return. But Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said during his Sunday teleconference that he believes Crowell will be able to play against the Yellow Jackets.
"It didn't swell too badly," Richt said. "I don't know how much he'll be able to do tomorrow, but I would think throughout the week he'll be able to get enough work to be able to go. I think Ron [Courson, Georgia's director of sports medicine] is pretty confident that he'll be healthy enough to go."
No. 13 Georgia struggled to run the ball consistently without Crowell and backup Carlton Thomas, who was suspended for a game for the third time this season. The Bulldogs were forced to rely on Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome, who combined to rush 32 times for 138 yards but also lost three fumbles.
However, Harton posted his first 100-yard outing with 23 attempts for 101 yards -- 89 in the second half -- after rushing for 98 against New Mexico State while filling in for the suspended Crowell, Thomas and Malcome.
"It's a whole lot better today," Harton said of the Kentucky win, which clinched the SEC East title for Georgia. "This was the game to send us to the SEC championship. It was just a great feeling to get out there. I had no idea that I was even close to 100, but it just so happened I was. I'm just glad I had a performance that enabled us to win today."
It was just another week of uncertainty at Georgia's running back position, which has been hampered by injuries, player departures and suspensions since the start of the season. The questions are sure to continue this week with Crowell attempting to return to the lineup and Thomas' status for the Georgia Tech game uncertain.
"It hasn't been as steady as you'd like," Richt admitted. "There's been a little bit of drama, a little too much drama. But we're finding ways to win and guys are stepping up when they get opportunities."
Facing the option
There is nothing new about Georgia Tech ranking among the nation's top rushing teams with coach Paul Johnson. The Yellow Jackets rank second nationally in rushing at 323.55 yards per game.
The greater change from recent patterns is that Georgia's defense -- a unit that had been relatively porous for the previous three seasons -- is second against the run at 81.27 yards per game.
Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington leads the Yellow Jackets with 1,481 passing yards and 849 rushing yards after passing for 185 yards and rushing for 136 in last weekend's 38-31 win against Duke.
The Yellow Jackets have seven players who have rushed for 198 yards or more while executing Johnson's option scheme, which few teams employ at the highest level of college football.
Richt said comparing what the Bulldogs have accomplished against more traditional offensive schemes won't necessarily translate into effectively defending the Yellow Jackets.
"It's a whole different world. It's a different type of running game," Richt said. "It's something that, you may be outstanding versus some of the more common things that we see on a week-to-week basis and then just get thrashed by this system we're about to go against. I just don't know if you can equate what's happened to this point versus the run and what's going to happen this week. I just think it's too different."
TV commentators had fun with the clip of Richt's lengthy kiss with his wife Katharyn after the Kentucky win.
Richt laughed Sunday when a reporter asked for an evaluation of the couple's amorous display on the sidelines.
"The kiss itself? Well, I thought it was a good one," Richt said. "I kind of thought she was mauling me. I went there just for a nice, friendly kiss and she started to wear me out and I didn't know what to do other than go with it. So that's the way I saw it.
"She's going to be so mad at me."
Georgia is ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll and the BCS standings released Sunday. The Bulldogs came in at No. 14 in the coaches' poll. ... Richt said Georgia's coaches rested nose guard Kwame Geathers against Kentucky rather than have him play at less than 100 percent, but that he should be available against Georgia Tech. Geathers suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter against Auburn and has not played since.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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