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Running the ball will be key to bowl win vs. Texas A&M

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

Joe Kines, the defensive coordinator for Texas A&M, knows exactly what Mike Bobo, Georgia's offensive coordinator, plans to do in the Independence Bowl on Monday.

Rushing the football is what most coaches believe is the best way to win games. The Bulldogs upset of Georgia Tech was based on its ability to successfully run the football and keep it away from the Yellow Jackets and their high powered triple option.

A review of the 2009 season, which was disappointing to so many Bulldog supporters, discloses that when Georgia outrushed its opponents, it won every game except Kentucky. By the end of the season, the offensive line had come together and began to dominate the competition. Running backs Caleb King and Washaun Ealey, slowed by injuries the first half of the season, became healthy which greatly influenced productivity. The tight ends gained experience which was a key factor in late season successes. Most often, a tight end gains tribute when he catches a pass for a big gain, but what is seldom seen by those in the stands is his blocking contributions. Blocking is just as important as catching a pass for a big gain.

Georgia finished ninth in the SEC in rushing offense, outrushing Arkansas, Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Tennessee Tech, Auburn and Georgia Tech for six of its victories. The only team Georgia defeated but was edged in rushing statistics was South Carolina.

While Bulldogs coach Mark Richt is generally recognized for a predilection for the passing game, he will tell you he prefers a balanced offense which is likely the view you will get from all coaches. The challenge to win goes up dramatically when your team becomes one dimensional.

Since he took over at Georgia in 2001, Richt's record when his teams have rushed for more than a 100 yards is a sparkling 75-15. When yards rushing have totaled less than 100 yards, the record is 14-12.

What gave Georgia an advantage in its 30-24 victory against Georgia Tech, when the offense played a peak game, was having two backs rush for more than 100 yards: Ealey with 183 yards and King with 166.

When a team is rushing the football with that efficiency, it means that your opponent is standing on the sideline without any opportunity to score.

"We were a better football team than we appeared to be at times," Bobo said the week after the Tech game. "When we run the football and don't turn it over, we are a pretty good football team. Unfortunately, turnovers killed us."

Georgia should have another advantage for the bowl game with receiver A. J. Green being available for action.

"He is just so hard to cover one on one," Bobo says. "While we want to run the football, having a receiver like A. J. makes a big difference in our offense. Defenses can't just fill up the box every snap and not worry about where A. J. is on the football field. He is a difference maker."

With competition at running back and tight end, performances at those positions increased notably as the season moved past mid-point.

No analysis of Georgia's 2009 season can be given credence without underscoring the importance of its kicking game. With Blair Walsh missing only two field goals, and Butler punting for a 48.1 average, the Bulldogs boast one of the best kicking tandems in the country and perhaps the best in Georgia history.

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Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at:loransmithathens@bellsouth.net