Run-pass option bedeviling Bulldogs

The run-pass option offense has become dirty words for college football defenses.

Georgia has seen it to varying degrees in all four of its games. The Bulldogs saw it a lot last week at Ole Miss, which obviously did not go well, and they might see it even more Saturday, when No. 11 Tennessee visits Sanford Stadium.

The concept that is any play can be a run or pass, depending on what the quarterback reads.

College football rules have allowed this to be an effective strategy because it allows offensive linemen to fire off the ball on a pass play, as long as they don’t venture more than 3 yards downfield. Pro football, in contrast, doesn’t allow linemen to advance down the field on a pass play.

“It’s extremely difficult because, whatever you grew up doing fundamentally — which is, you key for the run or pass, you diagnose, you make a decision, and then you go play the play — now those two are combined,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “So you’ve had to change the way you coach fundamentally. Guys that don’t have responsibility on the run, they can’t be involved at all. They’ve got to take care of their job. And there’s another group of guys that have to take care of their job. It makes you play defense a certain way.”

For those grousing about the Bulldogs’ lack of sacks, facing this type of offense is the chief reason. Georgia has only four sacks and is 13th in the 14-team SEC.

Florida leads the SEC with 17, but the Gators logged one sack against Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs.

Meanwhile, Dobbs completed 16 of 32 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran the ball 17 times for 80 yards and another score as Tennessee scored 38 unanswered points in a 38-28 victory.

Dobbs, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior from Alpharetta, had a similar performance in the Vols’ come-from-behind win over Georgia last year.

He finished with 312 yards and three touchdowns passing, and ran for 118 yards and two more TDs.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Georgia outside linebacker Davin Bellamy, who leads the Bulldogs with seven QB pressures and has one-half sack. “It kind of takes away your tenacity. You’ve kind of got to play your keys and not just get off the ball and go do what you want to do. You’ve got to make sure you’re in the right position for everybody.”

Dobbs represents the biggest challenge the Bulldogs have faced from a running standpoint. He’s the Vols’ second-leading rusher with 241 yards and has four TD runs.

“Some people are more elaborate at it than others,” Smart said. “It takes a good quarterback to do it, too, because you’re not protected, and he’s got to get rid of the ball really quick.”

The key for the Bulldogs is winning first and second down and forcing the Vols into predictable passing situations on third down. That way their options are limited and Georgia can have a better idea of what to expect.

“One thing we didn’t do last week is we didn’t get them into tough third-down situations,” Bellamy said. “They had a lot of third-and-2, third-and-3, third-and-4. So in practice, we’re focusing on being more physical and getting them in those third-and-long situations, so we can get them off the field.”

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