There isn’t much to gripe about for the Georgia football team these days.
The Bulldogs are on a four-game winning streak during which it has outscored opponents 130-35.
The tone of coach Mark Richt’s radio call-in show has turned rosier.
Asked two days after the 20-12 win at Tennessee if there was an area that “sticks in your craw,” Richt still had a ready answer.
“One thing I think we need to do better is to finish,” Richt said. “That was kind of an issue last year and it cost us some ballgames. … That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”
Georgia scored just three points in the second half in a 27-13 win against Ole Miss and in a 24-10 win over Mississippi State.
With halftime leads of 24-13 and 21-3, the Bulldogs didn’t need much offensive firepower because they could lean on a defense now ranked sixth in the nation in yards allowed.
Still, the fourth quarter was a focus in the offseason program, and that’s the only quarter Georgia has been outscored (37-32).
“I think the defense is a little bit ahead of the offense as far as playing the full 60 minutes at a high level, but I think we’re getting there offensively, too,” Richt said.
Against Tennessee, Georgia broke a tie game with a pair of third-quarter touchdown runs from Isaiah Crowell, but couldn’t put the Volunteers away with another score.
“A lot of the second halves this year we really have been able to milk the clock,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Last week we had that one drive we had like 20 penalties. … We ate up a lot of time. We were moving the ball, slowly, slowly down the field. We’re doing a great job of not giving offenses the ball.”
That drive included three holding penalties and a personal-foul facemask to give the Bulldogs a ridiculous second-and-56, but guess what?
Despite ending in a punt, it ate up 8:21 of clock, making it the longest drive for any SEC team this season.
Georgia took 7:29 off the fourth-quarter clock at Ole Miss before a missed 35-yard field goal. That’s the fourth-longest drive in the SEC this season.
“We’re not getting three-and-outs, something I felt like we did last year a little too much,” Murray said. “We’re buying time for our defense to rest.”
Except against Tennessee, Georgia had a pair of three-and-outs after the penalty-filled drive.
“We have to be better at being able to get one first down,” Richt said.
The Bulldogs went strictly to runs and were pushed back one drive by a Justin Anderson false start.
“When you’re in the ‘four-minute offense’ and you’re pretty much running it every time, you can’t afford to have a penalty,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We’ve been in that pretty much the last three weeks — ahead and trying to run clock.”
The reason why was evident against Mississippi State when Murray was picked off for a touchdown.
“We probably could have kept running it, used clock and punted and not scored and people would be complaining we didn’t score, but won the game 24-3,” Bobo said.
Against Tennessee, Richt said, “We pretty much said, ‘OK, we’re not going to throw the ball anymore. It was a three-and-out, it was a three-and-out and we gave them the ball. Just put more pressure on the defense to make these stops. … If we’re in that situation again, I would have to think twice about deciding whether or not we ought to just continue to play offense.”
Said center Ben Jones: “You always want to be able to come out with four or five minutes left in the game and run the clock out. When they’re loading the box up, sometimes it gets a little difficult.”
The Volunteers scored with 2:45 to play to close the gap to 20-12 and got the ball back with 18 seconds left, but didn’t threaten.
“Too much drama for what could have been,” Richt said. “I don’t know if we’ll get another opponent in that position. If we do, I hope that we can get it to the point where there won’t be any drama at the end of the game.”