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Dogs bound for Shreveport

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

Georgia's skeleton staff of defensive assistants is facing a stiff challenge in its Independence Bowl matchup against Texas A&M.

The Bulldogs (7-5) head into the Dec. 28 game in Shreveport, La., with their most losses in Mark Richt's nine seasons as coach and having fired three defensive assistants. But they are coming off an upset of Atlantic Coast Conference champion Georgia Tech.

The shortage of defensive help will leave Richt, best known for his work on offense, spending most of his time on defense during bowl practice.

"I'll be helping out in the organization and planning," Richt said Sunday. "I'll spend probably 99 percent of the time on the defensive field as we prepare."

The Aggies (6-6) rank 23rd in the nation with their average of 33.9 points per game. Georgia ranks 10th in the Southeastern Conference with its average of 26.4 points allowed.

The Bulldogs gave up more than 40 points in three games for the second straight season, leading to Richt's decision to fire defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, linebackers coach John Jancek and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris.

The three fired assistants declined an opportunity to remain with the team through the bowl game.

Rodney Garner, Georgia's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator who also carries the title of assistant head coach, is the only remaining defensive assistant.

Richt said he will rely on Garner and graduate assistants against the Aggies.

"It will definitely be a challenge, no doubt," Richt said. "We've seen enough to know they can move the ball and put points on the board. It will take everybody to hang in with it."

Georgia will be making its second trip to the Independence Bowl, the last coming in 1991. The Bulldogs haven't faced Texas A&M since a 42-0 victory in 1980 on the way to the national championship.

The Aggies finished fifth in the Big 12 South. Texas A&M, which didn't make a bowl trip last year, beat Oklahoma State in Shreveport in 1981.