Georgia's offensive line fights back

semerson@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 7, 2013 

South Carolina Georgia Football

Associated PressGeorgia tight end Arthur Lynch makes a touchdown catch during the first half Saturday.

JOHN BAZEMORE — AP

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia's offensive line went from the goat in Week 1 to the facilitator in Week 2, and did so against perhaps the biggest challenge it will face all year.

Facing Jadeveon Clowney and some other very good South Carolina linemen, Georgia cut in half the number of sacks it gave up in week one, created a good push for its tailbacks and played largely mistake-free.

In other words, the front five looked like a completely different line than at Clemson, when it yielded four sacks, committed critical penalties and didn't open many running holes.

"There were a lot of naysayers," junior center David Andrews said. "We did some bad things last week but people didn't see good things that we did. So people doubted us and that's where we like to be. We like to be doubted because that's motivation. We didn't change anything different from last week we just played football and we kicked tail."

Last week, star tailback Todd Gurley did a lot of the work himself. This week, while he did still do his usual star turn, there were a number of plays up the middle in which the front moved forward, giving Gurley and other tailbacks some extra yards.

"They were good," Gurley said of his line. "We ran the ball way more this game than we did last game. If you look at the stats we had more yards than Clemson and they did a great job against Clemson too. They just keep improving every day, every day."

When it came to containing Clowney - who did have one sack - it was more than a one-man show. Left tackle Kenarious Gates played well before suffering an ankle injury, and Mark Beard also played well in replacing him. But fullback Quayvon Hicks, tight end Arthur Lynch and the tailbacks also chipped in.

"We protected pretty well for the most part," head coach Mark Richt said. "I think there were two sacks, but that's gonna happen when you throw a few times. And then again, to finish the way we did, and you have to have the tight end position, you have to have the fullback position, those guys are great blockers. And even the tailbacks when it comes to pass protection there were some blitzes they picked up beautifully."

Taking chances

The decision to try for an onside kick was generated much earlier in the week.

Georgia assistant coach Kirk Olivadotti, who handles the kickoff unit, noticed on film that South Carolina would be vulnerable to it. So he came to Richt last Sunday night and showed Richt, who agreed to try it.

They did so after taking a 7-3 lead, and indeed it caught the Gamecocks off guard. Blake Sailors made the recovery.

"(OIivadotti) just felt like they were too wide on the front line, they were too far apart from each other," Richt said.

"There was just a crease, or whatever you wanna say it, a gap that was too big. And we were able to get blockers on there with two guys, and a kicker and another guy to go get the ball. ... It was executed beautifully.

"Anytime you can steal a possession from the other team it's huge, and it was a great momentum play for us."

The perfect walk-on

Patrick Beless was a complete unknown until two weeks ago, a kicker who didn't even start for his high school team.

Now two games into his college career, he's perfect.

Beless, an unrecruited walk-on, made a 37-yard field goal in Saturday's game, so far his only field goal attempt.

He also made every extra point, just as he did last week at Clemson.

Beless was asked how he fended off nerves before the field goal.

"I just tried to kick it like an extra point," Beless said. "Every kick you try and hit it the same way every time. Just the same swing. I'm just glad I was able to make it. It was a great hold and snap. Great blocking also."

Starting kicker Marshall Morgan returns from a two-game suspension in Georgia's next game, against North Texas. So Beless' run may be over.

"I'm just glad I was able to take advantage of an opportunity," Beless said. "I mean on the stat sheet it shows the makes and misses, but really there's so much more that goes into it. Really the blocking was fantastic, the snaps, the holds, everything was great. It was a great, efficient operation tonight."

Injury updates

Richt said he had not yet spoken with head athletic trainer Ron Courson, so he didn't have any updates on Gates or tailback Keith Marshall.

Gates had an ankle injury, while Marshall appeared to have a bruised knee. Georgia has a bye week, followed by North Texas, so if the injuries aren't serious there will be time to let them heal up.

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