COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Erk Russell would've loved watching his
"Junkyard Dawgs" play like this.
Russell, Georgia's beloved longtime defensive coordinator, died
Friday. A day later the 12th-ranked Bulldogs honored him the best
way they could -- posting their first shutout in three years in an
18-0 victory over South Carolina on Saturday night.
Russell led Bulldogs defenders for coach Vince Dooley from
1964-80 before leaving to restart football at Georgia Southern.
Russell's trademark was fiercesome, never-give-in defense. Georgia
(2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) couldn't have done that any
better against the Gamecocks.
"The way to truly honor him is to play like junkyard dogs,"
Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "That was the phrase he always
used, and I think that's what we did."
Perhaps the truest testament to their effort -- it was only the
second shutout ever hung on one of Steve Spurrier's teams.
"You always have to play hard, play like Erk Russell's teams of
the past," Georgia linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler said. "We came
in thinking that's how we wanted to play."
Georgia's players wore a black "ERK" decal on their helmets,
then bottled up the Gamecocks (1-1, 1-1) for most of the game.
South Carolina had 10 yards rushing in the first half and 35 for
the game. The closest the Gamecocks came to scoring was on
4th-and-goal from Georgia's 1. But Blake Mitchell's quarterback
sneak wound up with the ball punched into the end zone and going
over to Georgia by rule.
The Gamecocks drove to Georgia's 2 midway through the fourth
quarter. Again, Georgia held them without points.
This was Georgia's first shutout since a 30-0 win at Clemson to
start the 2003 season. The only other time a Spurrier team was held
without points came during his first year as a college coach in
1987, when Duke lost 7-0 to Rutgers -- a span of 193 games.
The Bulldogs got three field goals from Brandon Coutu, a 9-yard
TD run from Danny Ware and a safety from big defensive end Charles
Johnson also had a sack, three other tackles for losses and
broke up a pass.
"I call him the 'big bully' at practice," Richt said. "He was
a bully out there tonight. He's a big physical presence."
Georgia's defense took center stage to bail out a sluggish
offense, hurt when starting quarterback Joe Tereshinski injured his
right ankle on the team's first series. He'll have the ankle
examined again before Richt and the coaches decide how serious the
Saturday, highly regarded freshman Matthew Stafford filled in.
Stafford showed his talent -- he escaped a sure sack deep in own
territory by rushing the width of the field then pushing forward
for an 11-yard gain -- and rawness with three interceptions. But the
way Georgia's defenders played, it didn't make much difference.
"I had too many turnovers," Stafford said. "I have to do
better than that."
He did enough to give the Bulldogs a comfortable lead. He had
pass completions of 10 yards to Mario Raley and 19 yards to Kenneth
Ware did the rest, carrying four times for the final 38 yards,
including a 9-yard TD run that put Georgia ahead 10-0.
Stafford hit passes of 20 yards to Thomas Brown and 39 yards to
Mohamed Massaquoi on his next series and looked like he'd lead the
Bulldogs to another touchdown.
But his pass near the goal line was intercepted, deflected by
Gamecock cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to teammate Chris Hampton.
Johnson cleaned up that error, stopping South Carolina tailback
Mike Davis in the end zone for the Bulldogs' first safety in two
seasons. Then Stafford got them going once again, driving to
Coutu's second field goal of the half.
Coutu connected from 46 yards as time ran out, sending Georgia
to the locker room up 15-0.
Spurrier said he was sick of watching his team meander to the
line before running a play. He promised changes, saying he would
outline them later in the week. "We should be playing better than
this, but we're not," he said.