ATHENS, Ga. -- The question is usually so common it has the power to make screaming infants nod off.
"How," the Georgia quarterback was asked, "do you feel?"
|All is well for Georgia coach Mark Richt and quarterback David Green after the Bulldogs manhandle LSU. (Getty Images)|
For once, he felt fine. More than fine. Great, really. At least he was upright, which is saying a lot.
Greene threw a school-record five touchdown passes in a cleansing 45-16 victory over No. 13 LSU on Saturday. That's almost shocking considering at times last season, Greene didn't look like he would last another five seconds. That's why it was good to be king, and healthy, for an afternoon.
"Oh, I feel great," Greene said after the game that caused the latest sea change in the SEC. "The guys have done a great job of protecting. I've had time to set my feet, stand back there and make throws. When you've got time and there aren't bodies flying around in front of you, it's a lot easier."
Somehow his body parts stayed connected last year while he played behind a line that allowed an SEC-high 47 sacks. The Dawgs won 11 games but the season had bruises beyond the ones on Greene's battered body.
Georgia vs. LSU Series
The Tigers cruised through Georgia twice to win a share of the national title. LSU, to put it in the terms familiar with his fellow students, was Greene's daddy. The only thing worse than the beating he took last year was the utter embarrassment in two games against the Tigers. Against everyone else in his career he was 35-6. Against LSU he was 0-2 -- and swollen.
In two torturous games last year against LSU, Greene threw five interceptions and was sacked nine times. He'll never admit it but a hyper-extended knee suffered in the first LSU loss bothered him the rest of the season.
"Sheesh, he got sacked 47 times," said David Pollack, Georgia's two-time All-American defensive end. "That says it all. No telling how many times he got hit altogether."
The majority of that line returned, which was either a blessing or a death threat for Greene. Then the offense started out like an Edsel, getting the job done but choking and coughing and wheezing on the way. Georgia came into the game 52nd in total offense, 54th in scoring offense and No. 1 in surliness.
"It was all in the newspapers and everybody in class was saying, 'When are you going to break out? When are you going to score more than 13 points?'" freshman tailback Danny Ware said. "I was like, 'Why don't ya'll go out and there do what we do?'"
Sometimes the SEC has to be cruel to be kind, which is what Saturday was about at delirious Sanford Stadium. It wasn't just enough to beat LSU. The Tigers had to be blown back to the Stone Age. While he was at it, coach Mark Richt had to get the offense straight. That's pretty much why he was hired at $1.75 million per.
In one glorious afternoon, all the wounds were healed.
The points were the most scored against LSU in Nick Saban's five seasons, the second-most ever against a Saban-coached team. LSU came into the season as the nation's best defense. It left Athens stinging from the most points scored on the Tigers since 1996.
It suggested that Georgia had found the magic potion to beat Saban's hair-on-fire blitzes. More than that, it made a strong statement that No. 3 Georgia (4-0) might be the clear favorite in the SEC.
"This is real big," backup quarterback D.J. Shockley said. "This is one of our main goals. There was a lot of speculation about our offense. Were we really overrated? We have all the playmakers and really can't score any points. It shows when we're clicking on all cylinders, it shows what can happen even against the best teams."
And Greene? Sacked just once Saturday and only four times all season. He came into the game probably the fifth-best quarterback story in the SEC. Tennessee has the freshmen. LSU has its revolving quarterbacks. Chris Leak is doing great things at Florida. Jason Campbell is finally getting it at Auburn.
And Greene? He could end up with most of Georgia's passing records. That's nice but even more impressive: If he guides the Dawgs to four more victories, Greene will become the winningest starting quarterback in I-A history. Saturday's victory was his 36th as a starter. He trails Peyton Manning by three.
"All the talk about, has he lost it?" Pollack said. "He made some perfect throws."
Greene threw for a modest 172 yards, completing 10 of 19. But it was the suddenness of the attack that stunned the Tigers and most likely the rest of the SEC. After getting only two touchdowns in 85 throws last year against LSU, Greene had three scores in his first eight throws Saturday.
Twenty minutes into the game receiver Reggie Brown had his career high in receiving yards (110).
It turns out that at a film session during the week, Richt rolled film of LSU lockup corners Travis Daniels and Corey Webster.
"Are they better than you?" Richt said, issuing a challenge particularly at starting receivers Brown and Fred Gibson.
Saban's defense dares you to be great. If you want to take a shot, go ahead. Just be advised that you're throwing against perhaps the best pair of corners in the land and facing a savage defensive line.
LSU's defense leaves a tiny window a quarterback can throw into. First, the thrower has to get it there. Then the receiver has to catch it with a defender right in face. Greene took the challenge, dropping balls through that window all day.
Indeed, the first four touchdowns were of the arcing variety thrown in stride right into the hands of Brown and Gibson. Each caught two touchdown passes. Before Saturday the entire receiving corps had caught a total of two touchdowns this season.
Daniels was so frustrated on Brown's tight-roping 29-yard catch that made it 24-0 that he reached down and slapped the prone Georgia receiver on the side of his hip.
"They played one-on-one coverage and we just won," Greene said. "Reggie and Fred were going and getting it. We just finally put it together. A lot of times all you need is momentum."
And just think if Greene had any receivers that could catch. Seriously. There were at least four drops combined by Brown and Gibson on catchable balls thrown by Greene and Shockley. Especially troubling -- for any team pursuing a national championship -- was Brown short-arming a bullet down the right sideline when he spotted a defender lining him up for a knockout blow.
Even worse was Greene laying a perfect pass over the hands of a corner and into the hands of Gibson in the first half. Touchdo -- no. The pass went right through Gibson's hands during the team's second drive. Brown made up for it by catching a 25-yard scoring pass on the next play.
Maybe that's nitpicking. SEC champions aren't made in a day. There's still plenty of time to get things right. You have to like Georgia's chances in the SEC East, SEC as a whole and -- can you believe it? -- in the national championship chase.
The Dawgs (2-0 in the SEC East) are the only team in the division without a conference loss. Tennessee (3-1 and 1-1) comes to town next week reeling from the Auburn loss. The schedule gets friendly after that aside from that annoying trip to Jacksonville on Oct. 30.
Hey, why end the day on a downer like that?
"It takes a little while to get going," Greene said. "Hopefully you hit your best ball in the middle to later part of the season. We feel like we have a lot of talent and we weren't living up to our expectations."
Now the expectations have a companion: Possibilities.