Georgia's Offense: Not a Good Start

Tyler EstepSenior Analyst ISeptember 8, 2009

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Joe Cox #14 of the Georgia Bulldogs warms up before the college football game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  The Cowboys defeated the Bulldogs 24-10.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

For all of Joe Cox's waiting, learning and goodwill, Saturday's season debut was not what he wanted.

Georgia's fifth-year quarterback, in his second career start and first since 2006, put up decent-enough numbers - 15 of 30 passing for 162 yards, a touchdown and a late interception.

But after an 80-yard, 10-play scoring drive on the Bulldogs' first offensive possession of the game, Georgia didn't score another touchdown and the offense was visibly defunct.

It's hard to swallow a 24-10 loss when your defense holds the Oklahoma State offense, one of the most high-octane offenses in the country, in check for most of the game.

"[The offense] looked good there for a minute, didn't it?" coach Mark Richt joked halfheartedly after the game. "But I don't think we're far off."

Added Cox: "It seemed like whenever we'd have a play there'd always be one person who didn't finish a block or even me - missing a person running open. Just little things really hurt us."

Admittedly, there were some dropped passes for the Bulldogs, and sophomore tailback Richard Samuel (who rushed for 87 yards on 20 carries) was a shoestring tackle away from breaking more than one big run.

But the offense's performance Saturday left some message-board junkies and online commenters clamoring for Richt and coordinator Mike Bobo's heads, as well as the start of the Aaron Murray Project behind center.

While Cox will undoubtedly get the start come this week against South Carolina, past trends against the 'Cocks may not help him production or appearance-wise.

The Bulldogs haven't scored more than 18 points in their annual matchup with the Gamecocks since 2004. Even with Stafford and Moreno in 2008, they scored their lone touchdown in a 14-7 win on a run where Moreno had no business finding the end zone.

"[The South Carolina game] is a huge one," Cox said. "It was huge even before this loss."

While Georgia's defensive performance may have been even better than it looked in the box score (the No. 9 Cowboys had two drives start inside Georgia's 25-yard line after a fumble and a long kick return), the Bulldog offense floundered.

Georgia's first drive was an exercise in efficiency and creativity - Samuel pounded the ball for consistent three to five-yard gains, Cox was two for three with a 29-yard toss to A.J. Green, and mobile backup Logan Gray and freshman cornerback Branden Smith both took direct snaps.

But after that, the Bulldogs failed to make it to the red zone again. As Samuel continued to make solid gains on the ground, Cox struggled to create a consistent passing attack.

Senior wide receiver Michael Moore said coach Tony Ball didn't even realize he only played three of the Bulldogs' six scholarship receivers until after the game. Freshman tight end Orson Charles was Georgia's second leading receiver with two catches for 46 yards.

"I don't know what changed," Samuel said.

The Bulldogs may not have to score that many points to come away the victory Saturday - South Carolina struggled mightily in its opener, too, managing to beat N.C. State only 7-3.

Cox missed some practice last week and flew to Stillwater separately after experiencing flu-like symptoms, but downplayed its effect on his performance, saying he wasn't 100 percent but "definitely good enough to play a football game."

And while it may be a stretch to say he's playing for his job on Saturday, another lackluster performance won't help quiet a growing chorus already chirping for Murray, a highly-touted freshman quarterback, to begin his indoctrination. Still, Cox knows that what he saw Saturday wasn't simple stuff.

"[Oklahoma State] pretty much threw every blitz imaginable at us, different coverages, just a lot of different things to confuse us," Cox said.

"I feel like I let a lot of people down today."