Athens, GA (Sports Network) - The ninth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs will continue
their three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon when they play host to the
North Texas Mean Green.
North Texas has started the year a promising 2-1, with a pair of home wins
over Idaho (40-6) and Ball State (34-27) sandwiched between a tough road
defeat at Ohio University (27-21). The Mean Greens managed to score 10
unanswered points in the fourth quarter last week to take down Ball State.
"That's the difference between this team and the last couple of years," said
North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson, who ran in the game-winning 26-yard
touchdown. "We're never out of it."
Georgia was put to the test in a prime time showdown on opening night at
nationally-ranked Clemson and came out on the wrong end of that back-and-forth
battle, 38-35. The Bulldogs bounced back in a big way on Sept. 7, however,
with a 41-30 triumph over rival South Carolina to put them in control of their
own destiny in the SEC Eastern Division.
"This year, we get a chance to sit in the driver's seat," Georgia head coach
Mark Richt said. "We haven't been 1-0 in the league in a while because South
Carolina's been getting us. Today, we got them, and I'm so thankful."
The Bulldogs enjoyed an off week following their crucial win over the
Gamecocks, and Richt is eager to get back on the field.
"We got done what we needed to do this week, and we're looking forward to
playing ball again next week," he said.
This will be the first-ever matchup between these two football programs.
North Texas has one of the top offenses in Conference USA, ranking fourth in
scoring (31.7 ppg) and third in yardage (465.0 ypg), all while converting an
impressive 47 percent of its third-down attempts.
The improvement of quarterback Derek Thompson has been a large reason for the
Mean Green's success. The senior is completing greater than 70 percent of his
passes for 818 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He is also a
threat to move outside the pocket (85 rushing yards, TD).
Darnell Smith is Thompson's most trusted receiving option, catching 22 passes
for 232 yards and a touchdown. Combined with Brelan Chancellor (16 receptions,
256 yards, two TDs) and Carlos Harris (12 receptions, 141 yards, TD), North
Texas has one of the top receiving corps in C-USA.
Brandin Byrd (35 carries) and Reggie Pegram (33 carries) have nearly split the
workload right down the middle in the UNT backfield. The duo has combined for
298 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
While the Mean Green defense looks solid in terms of scoring (20.0 ppg) and
yardage (437.3 ypg) numbers, their biggest asset is their propensity for the
big play, having recorded an outstanding 11 turnovers, tied for the most in
Zachary Orr has proven himself to be one of the top linebackers in the nation
in the early going, recording 32 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and two
fumble recoveries. Marcus Trice, Lairamie Lee and Kenny Buyers have all
registered multiple takeaways as well.
Georgia was expected to have one of the nation's top offenses coming into the
season and it has yet to disappoint, putting up 38.0 ppg and 540.5 ypg against
two top-quality opponents.
The unit is led by Heisman hopeful Aaron Murray, who has completed 71.2
percent of his pass attempt for 632 yards with five touchdowns (one rushing)
and an interception. All of Murray's passing scores came against a strong
South Carolina defense last week.
Todd Gurley has devastated defenses early in the 2013 campaign, rushing for
286 yards (6.8 ypc) and three touchdowns. The sophomore running back logged 30
carries last week, a workload that his head coach is confident he can handle.
"He's a big, physical man," Richt said of his running back. "He is a special
player. There are not many things he can't do."
Keith Marshall is also utilized out of the backfield both as a rusher (101
yards, TD) and a receiver (82 yards, TD). Michael Bennett (107 yards) and
Justin Scott-Wesley (171 yards, TD) are Murray's top targets out wide,
combining for 15 catches.
While the UGA offense has been as advertised, the defense has greatly
underperformed, allowing teams to amass more than 460 yards per contest and
34.0 ppg. Unlike the Mean Green, the Bulldogs have not forced many turnovers,
with just a pair of fumble recoveries counting towards their takeaway total.
Amarlo Herrera leads the squad with 24 tackles with a forced fumble. Sterling
Bailey has 14 stops and recorded one of the team's three sacks.
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