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Georgia 56, Central Michigan 17

Now, that was more like it!

It’s not that last week’s performance was bad; quite the contrary. It’s just that the win over Georgia Southern seemed to fall somewhat short of the hype. Saturday’s victory between the hedges, though, represented both a step up in the weight class of the opposition and a step-up by the Bulldogs, who looked yesterday like what they will be on my BlogPoll ballot tomorrow . . . namely, the No. 1 team in the nation.

From the booth, Mike Bobo called one of the best games of his brief career as his alma mater’s offensive coordinator, methodically building a 21-0 lead before Demarcus Dobbs’s 78-yard interception return appeared to break the game wide open. After the Chippewas clawed back to within two touchdowns on their first drive of the third quarter, Georgia did not hesitate to go for the kill; two plays, 62 seconds, and one 52-yard Knowshon Rockwell Moreno run later, the Red and Black had resumed a comfortable 35-14 lead.

From there, it was all Bulldogs. Central Michigan managed only a 30-yard field goal as the Classic City Canines pounded out three more touchdowns. An inopportune fumble on a poor center-quarterback exchange to second-stringer Joe Cox probably deprived Richard Samuel of his second score of the game, but that was one of few flaws exhibited by the ‘Dawgs on this day.

On the other hand, one of the flaws exhibited by the officials was their apparent ignorance of the fact that this is holding.

Much-ballyhooed double-threat signal-caller Dan LeFevour got his passing yards because Willie Martinez gave them to him in a swap the Georgia defensive coordinator was happy to make in the course of holding C.M.U. (Coach Martinez’s last stop on the road to Athens, incidentally) to 59 rushing yards and 2.7 yards per carry. Matthew Stafford, not hitherto known in these parts as the second coming of Fran Tarkenton, ran for more yards (25) than LeFevour (19), including a 22-yard scamper on third and long deep in Bulldog territory to sustain a scoring drive.

Stafford’s run produced one of 25 Red and Black first downs and represented one of the nine conversions the Athenians managed on a dozen third-down tries. The Chips, by contrast, saw their high-powered offense limited to 17 first downs and a mere half-dozen conversions on 15 third downs. Four of Central Michigan’s first five drives failed to produce so much as a single fresh set of downs.

The Bulldogs racked up 552 yards of total offense and demonstrated impressive balance in the process, throwing for 289 and rushing for 263. Moreno could do no wrong, averaging over nine yards per carry, collecting 168 yards and three touchdowns in 18 rushes, and at one point causing me to wonder whether Larry Munson was up in the booth yelling, "He’s jumping over people!" Moreno added 30 receiving yards on three catches for good measure.

Samuel made the most of his eight touches, racking up 44 yards and a score . . . which, based upon the third-string tailback’s reaction to the late turnover, was one touchdown too few in his book. When Caleb King’s 4.0 yards-per-carry average brings up the rear among the Bulldog backs, the ground game has had a good day.

(Obligatory shot of Knowshon Rockwell Moreno.)

Let’s not slight the passing attack, though. Cox came into the game late and the offense barely missed a beat. The backup quarterback threw five passes for five completions and 76 yards. Aside from a drop by Kris Durham over the middle, the ‘Dawgs looked sharp through the air all day. A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi lived up to their billing and both Michael Moore and Israel Troupe had good games.

No, the game wasn’t flawless. Georgia was set back 70 yards on nine penalties, although much of Central Michigan’s limited success came on some questionable no-calls by the officials. The special teams were not as strong as we have come to expect, as the directional kicks Blair Walsh has been instructed to make yielded more and bigger returns than are acceptable. I agree with the always insightful SG Standard: if we can put it out the back of the end zone, why don’t we?

These, though, are decidedly minor quibbles. Georgia closed the deal in dominant fashion, producing a game which was fun not only for the fans but (judging by the dancing on the sidelines during a T.V. timeout and by the good-natured ribbing dished out by Dobbs during the postgame show) also for the players.

On a day on which Southern California and Louisiana State both took the afternoon off (the latter, by necessity; the former, by design), Ohio State struggled mightily with overmatched Ohio (Ohio) in the national game of disinterest, and Florida led depleted Miami (Florida) by six points after three quarters before classlessly leaving Tim Tebow in the game to tack on trash (and trashy) points at the end, there appeared to be no genuine challengers to Georgia’s standing atop the sport outside of a couple of strong performers in the Big 12. (No, Texas and Texas Tech, I’m not talking about you!)

Nothing personal, coach, but . . . a 28-13 halftime lead over U.T.E.P.? Really?

Beyond that, here are a handful of other random observations regarding the Saturday just behind us:

  • I have attended both games this season as one-half of a father-son outing, but, because I went to the Georgia Southern game with a five-year-old and to the Central Michigan game with a 65-year-old, I was able to stay all the way to the end this time. When the Redcoat Band struck up "Krypton Fanfare," I was reminded how right my wife is when she says that, rather than own the fourth quarter, she would rather own the first, second, and third quarters and leave the fourth period to the scrubs. Better that than sleepwalking through the first 15 minutes or more and needing to turn it on late like some teams I could name.

  • Speaking of the Saurians, does Tim Tebow not see the cognitive dissonance between being the sort of football player who writes Bible verses on his eyeblack and being the sort of football player who plays for Urban Meyer? Can the Gator Golden Child quote me chapter and verse on the part where Jesus said, "Blessed are they who leave their starters in during the final minute of the fourth quarter so they can run it up, for they shall inherit the earth"? Who knew that Florida would one day hire a coach that made us long for the graciousness and dignity of the Steve Spurrier era?

  • While we’re on the subject of running it up, I hope no one thinks Georgia did that by hanging half a hundred on the Chippewas. As I pointed out earlier, breaking 50 on C.M.U. is hardly novel for a B.C.S. conference team playing at home and the fourth-quarter offense was pretty much straight up the middle; it only got out of hand because Samuel came to play (which is to his credit) and there’s only so long Michiganders can be expected to hold up in Georgia humidity. Here’s how much the ‘Dawgs weren’t trying to run it up . . . by the end of the game, we had a white guy "possession-type receiver" out there returning punts!

  • Here’s how the postseason coaching dominoes are going to fall: Tommy Bowden will be fired; Bobby Johnson will replace Coach Bowden at Clemson; Skip Holtz will replace Coach Johnson at Vanderbilt; Steve Spurrier will replace Coach Holtz at East Carolina. Hey, it’s bound to yield better results than the last time he replaced a Coach Holtz at a directional Carolina.

  • No, I’m not talking trash to South Carolina. The Gamecocks always bring their best game to the confrontation with Georgia, and they will have two extra days to prepare, a strong incentive to right the ship after losing to Vanderbilt, a very stout defense, and a home field advantage that no Bulldog fan could deny is genuine and daunting. The good news is that this is likely to be a defensive struggle in which the first team to 20 wins. The bad news is that, the last time the ‘Dawgs scored 100 or more points in a two-game span was against Vanderbilt and Kentucky in 2002. The next week, Georgia lost to Florida by a 20-13 final margin. The Red and Black will have to be extremely wary heading into Columbia.

  • I always enjoy seeing national championship Georgia squads from other sports being honored at halftime of a football game, but it’s a little odd to see what other Bulldog teams look like. The men’s tennis team looked like any eight guys selected at random from a fraternity block of seats in the student section and, as a guy sitting in front of me pointed out, the equestrian team must be second only to the football team as the Georgia squad having the most members. "There’s 40 girls out there," the fellow in the row before me noted, "and that means there’s got to be 40 horses, too."

  • I was disappointed in the presentation of the football lettermen holding their reunions. The groups were introduced by team year without further embellishment. Between the 1998, 1988, 1983, 1978, 1968, 1958, and 1948 teams, there were some accomplished squads out there, but only the "Wonderdogs" received special mention. There were two S.E.C. championship squads, a ten-win Cotton Bowl championship squad that narrowly missed out on a national title, and Vince Dooley’s final team out there. Those guys deserve more credit than they were given on Saturday.

  • I was mildly nonplussed that the televisions in the Tate Center were showing Boston College-Georgia Tech and Auburn-Southern Miss before the game. At the time, Ohio State was locked in a real battle with a M.A.C. team nowhere near as good as the one the ‘Dawgs were getting ready to throttle. We need to start thinking of ourselves as a national program. The Tate Center televisions ought to be showing us the Buckeyes’ and the Trojans’ struggles. Do you think U.S.C. fans are following U.C.L.A. games more intently than, say, L.S.U. games?

  • In week one, the preseason favorite to win the A.C.C. was manhandled by an average or slightly above-average S.E.C. squad on a neutral field. In week two, the successor squad to take over the position of A.C.C. frontrunner needed a last-second 41-yard field goal to avoid being upset on its home field by a below-average S.E.C. squad. Is the S.E.C. that good or is the A.C.C. that pitiful? Is it fair to treat the A.C.C. champion as this year’s "B.C.S. buster"?

  • If you even thought about being impressed by Florida’s 26-3 home win over Miami in a game in which the Gators managed seven offensive points in the first 45 minutes of play before cheaply pouring it on at the end, I would remind you of the following outcomes from the Hurricanes’ previous dozen outings: Oklahoma 51, Miami 13; Virginia 48, Miami 0; Virginia Tech 44, Miami 14. Pouring it on in the fourth quarter to beat the ‘Canes at home by 23? Please. The only thing remotely impressive about last night’s game in Gainesville was Erin Andrews.

It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog.

Go ‘Dawgs!