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Kirby Smart, Bulldogs Preview SEC Championship Game

ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday’s game against Alabama. They offered the following comments during Monday’s media session.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments … 

“As we open up, we’re excited for the opportunity to play in the SEC Championship game. I think it’s a credit to the seniors on this team to be able to go to this game two years back to back, which sometimes can be difficult to do. And it’s an honor to be in it, playing one of the hottest teams in the country, one of the best teams in the country. And we know a lot about them. They know a lot about us. We had a short week last year to prepare for them, so it was kind of a short window, especially when you compare it to what we had to prepare for the first game, the Oklahoma game.

But they’ve got a great team. I don’t think anybody would argue that. They’ve got very few deficiencies in any area, talented quarterback, explosive offense, and first thing you notice when they turn the tape on is how fast and how much they score. And they play some good teams in our conference and they still score a lot of points.

Defensively they’ve gotten better throughout the year, got a really good football team, and we’ll be focused on our team this week and we’ll be working really hard to be at our best, and our best will be needed. We’ll have to play well on special teams, defense and offense and that’ll be our goal.”

On Alabama’s yards per catch compared to some of the earlier Florida teams he faced when he was a player … 

“I think it’s hard to say. Those teams at Florida were a long time ago and they had really good wideouts, elite wideouts and they had good quarterbacks, but their quarterbacks were mostly stable, sitting-in-the-pocket guys. And if you remember, they were come after by a Florida State team that was really aggressive and came after them. The young man we’re playing now can run, can throw, can make the throws, can make the checks. They’ve got really good backs. You don’t think about backs that played at Florida back then. These guys have the complete package. When you look across the board on the offensive unit, there’s not like a glaring weakness there. People say they can’t run the ball. They can run the ball. They’ve got physical O linemen. They’ve got the ability to. They just choose to score faster other ways.”

On doing a better job of kickoff coverage … 

“We have to do a better job. At the end of the day we’ve got a coverage unit —  that it’s our responsibility as coaches —that’s probably falling asleep because of a guy that kicks at a high rate of touchbacks. I mean Rod’s in the 80s or something in touchbacks, or at least he was for a while. And we tried to even cover some against UMass intentionally to get some coverages, and we haven’t done with our coverages. Our hang times by Rod have been tremendous. He’s done a great job of placement of the ball. Just gotta do a better job covering it, and if we can kick it out, kick it out. That’s the key.”

On how much it helps QB Jake Fromm having played Alabama last year … 

“I don’t think it hurts anything. But this year is a different year. The fact that he’s played 11 games, 12 games; I don’t even know how many games he’s played. That has more to do than who we played. The fact he’s played and gotten experience. He’s gone against our defense all spring. He’s gone against our defense all fall, and he goes in all these games and plays. That’s more valuable than just playing Alabama. But the fact that he played against them last year, sometimes that helps. It also helps he had literally two first-round backs that were out there with him as well. And I know one was taken in the second, but he’s a first-round talent. So when you sit there and look at it, you go he had a lot of help. He’ll have a lot of help this year. We’ll have to play well offensively.”

On comparing last year’s National Championship prep to this year’s SEC Championship … 

“That post-season schedule is so different because there was a long layoff. There was a get all your team better, prepare your team. You’re really preparing for three teams, the ones you play and the two you might play. It’s a playoff scenario. So that preparation is very different than this. This would be more similar to just finished a game, we gotta go play an SEC Championship, which is more similar to when we played Auburn last year as far as the schedule goes. Team’s completely different. But we’ll do it like a normal game week. You can’t say this game is, oh, we gotta do something different this game. We gotta go out and be who we are. We gotta go play better and we’ve gotta go continue to improve. We got a bunch of young guys that gotta go compete and play in a big-stage environment.”

On if coaching alongside Coach Nick Saban has helped him understand what he is thinking more than other coaches … 

“You know, I don’t know. I mean I think that there’s going to be similar thinking, so I mean if you argue that there is a benefit from knowing what he’s thinking or what he’s thinking about in a certain situation, then he could say the same, because I certainly was with him long enough to know that in certain situations I have a lot of the same beliefs and thoughts. So I don’t think anybody strategically gained something because you work together for 10 years or you work together for 12 years at different places. I mean football is football. You have to make a decision, you know, what is your strategy on 3rd and 1, what is your strategy on 4th and 4. I don’t think anybody is so predictable that you know that 100 percent. So I don’t think you gain a whole lot from it.”

On if beating his mentor would be special … 

“I really don’t look at it that way at all. It’s not personal for me. I don’t look at it as that at all. It would be gratifying to our players. It would be the next step towards going to the playoffs. And those are the objectives that we want. It’s not — it’s not about me. It’s not about him. It’s not about the fact that we worked together. It’s never about that to me because I don’t see it that way. I see a really good football team on the other side that our guys have earned the right to go play against. And that’s really all it is for me.”

On lessons learned in pass coverage following last year’s National Championship … 

“That lesson was learned the day we installed that defense. I mean when you play cover two and you play halves, you got a guy over the top of another guy and you got a guy in the flat and the guy in the flat should jam and reroute and the guy in the half should be in the half. There’s nothing about that game that you learned because that game came down to more than just that. I mean that’s just what people remember the most. So when we teach that coverage, we teach it the same way we taught it before. We just hope that we do a better job of executing it.”

On the carryover from facing Tua Tagovailoa in the second half of the National Championship last year and the differences in his play from then to now…
“He’s improved tremendously. I mean he was really good in that half, but you have to remember, they had two really young linemen in the game. They had a lot of receivers that were playing at that point that were really young that have grown up. Their receiving corps is extremely talented, and they all seemed young then. So now they’re all very experienced, very talented, and he has them at his disposal to make good decisions and put the ball in the right people’s hands, and his decision-making and touch and accuracy is really just off the charts.
And I mean it was in our game last year, too, but now it’s a more experienced version of it. I don’t know that playing against him last year helps any this year. I think it doesn’t have anything to do with it. I think it has to do with both teams this year, because our team is certainly extremely different, especially defensively.”

On Elijah Holyfield’s ability to get to the pylon and how he has exceeded expectations…
“I’ve been very pleased with Elijah (Holyfield). Number one, his leadership more so than his ability to get to the pylons has been tremendous. His work ethic day in and day out. His toughness and his attitude is tremendous. I think both those backs would tell you they benefit from a physical offensive line and a group of receivers that are a threat to catch the ball. So those things help open boxes. When people don’t want to play you one on one, which Alabama will, they open up things for the other guys. And that’s important. But Elijah has been tremendous, and he has a good knack for getting the ball in the end zone. He’s a slasher. He’s not afraid of contact.”

On the injury update of Ben Cleveland and Trey Hill…
“Trey (Hill) is good to go. He was out and about yesterday moving around, so I expect Trey to be fine. Really all those guys. Ben’s (Cleveland) in the same boat he’s been in. You ask about Ben every week. Ben’s fighting to get back. We think Ben’s not 100 percent, but he’s closer to 100 percent than he was yesterday. So we keep trying to get him back and doing all we can to get him back. And then really nothing changed on Cade (Mays) and Monty (Rice) from last night. I don’t know anything else. That’s been less than 24 hours ago.”

On how Georgia’s receivers stack up against Alabama’s…

“I think it’s a tough comparison. I don’t like doing comparisons. I have a lot of respect for Alabama’s wide-outs. I think they’re tremendous. I think they’re probably the best unit we’ve faced. They’re talented, man. They get vertical. They run routes. They stick their feet in the ground and they have a good guy throwing it to them. But so do we. We’ve got a good wide receiver corps; we got a deep wide receiver corps across the board. A lot of guys have stepped up, and Jake allows those guys to make plays. So comparing them, I think it’s hard to say because I’m certainly proud of the way our guys play on special teams and play physical. But their guys are very talented, too.

On what Smart likes about sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm and the receiving corps…

“Timing, balance. They’ve done a good job with the RPO game, done a good job with the vertical passing game. They’ve done a good job connecting, whether it’s press man routes, off man routes. They’re getting better. They throw and catch a lot together. I think Jake has a trust with that group, and they trust him that the ball is going to be there on time. And let’s give them some credit. They run good routes and get open and catch the ball. But none of this happens without protection. And that’s one of the keys to this game is, number one, keeping the quarterback upright because of the number of sacks and disruption they have, but our guys protecting the quarterback well and being able to have balance, because you don’t want to live in third -and–longs against this team.”

On if practice will be inside this week…

“We may be outside just to get out there. But it’s going to depend on the weather. It’s not like it is every other week, where you’d say ‘I want to go outside because we’re playing outside’. We’ll do it based on the weather and whether or not we want to get off the turf for a day. But most of the times we play in a game like this, we’re inside.”

On Alabama’s intimidation factor and Georgia’s awareness of taking Alabama to overtime in January…

“I don’t know that it helps at all. I think the biggest thing is preparing your teams the right way to play and not getting overwhelmed by the moment. If anything, I’ve probably seen more teams lose it in the warmups, just trying to get all amped up and all that. You have to go play your best game. You have to be yourself, and you have to be the best version of you, and you can’t worry about the rest. A lot of those teams that I witnessed that, they didn’t have near as good of players as us either.

So I think when you look at it, you say, ‘Okay, what is the talent level? What is the talent gap?’ They’ve got an extremely talented team. We respect that. But we also have a good football team, and our kids have a lot of pride in performance. They’re not basing that on last year’s, because there are a lot of those kids off that team. I know defensively for us there are very few guys that are back as returning starters. We have a few on offense. But teams are different. Their team’s different, too. It’s two different teams, and the good thing is we both get to go on the field and play.”

On if Smart is still close to anyone on the Alabama staff…

“I’ve still got a lot of good friends in their support staff and the rest of their staff. There’s still guys that I see in the off season and things like that. Probably not as many with the changes they’ve had. I mean that’ll always be the case. I think every team you play, there’s somebody on the coaching staff that I’ve worked with or at least am good friends with, and that’s no different at Alabama.”

On if there is fatigue in answering questions about the connection between Smart and Alabama…

“Not really. I’m more worried about how to stop these wideouts and how to stop the quarterback. I’m not fatigued by this. I’m a lot more concerned with how we’re going to play and where we’re going to play guys and how we’re going to go about doing things. That’s you guys. Those are all your questions. I get it. You all have a job to do, and my job is to answer them.”

On making Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa uncomfortable in the pocket…

“It would be great to do that. It would be awesome to do that. I think if you can disrupt the pocket and get him out – to do that you have to take a lot of chances, and there are some good players back there behind those chances you’re taking. They also have the ability to expose you when you’re not balanced up on the run. I mean, there are similarities between their offense and our offense. They do a really good job offensively of running the ball and putting together run packages. They just don’t have to use them all the time because they’re really explosive. So getting pressure, affecting the quarterback – absolutely that’s critical. But not giving up big plays is, too.”

On if the January meeting with Alabama motivates Georgia…

“I really think to each his own. I mean that’s not a motivating factor for me. That’s not what’s driving me. What’s driving me is the young men in this room that will be here in a couple of hours, trying to do my best job for them, and that’s what my coaching staff has to do. We have to put our guys in the best situation to be successful, and that’s all we’re concerned with, because when you let all the outside forces and the outside motivation control you, sometimes you get emotional and you don’t make the best decisions.

We have to put the best plan together we can to play our best game against Alabama. Not the Alabama last year, not the Georgia last year. So that’s motivation for a lot of people. And that’s the media talk. But for us it’s what do I have to do to play my best game. That’s what I want to work on.”

On leading the nation in allowing the fewest plays of 20 or more yards…

“I think that sometimes can be a misleading stat, but this year our guys have done a good job keeping people cut off and not giving up explosive plays. And you do that by leveraging the ball, and you do that by not busting coverages. You do that by not getting beat man to man, and those are things we have to do every game. It’s not like we have to do it this game. We have to do it every game. But along with that we have to do a good job of affecting the quarterback, and sometimes that exposes you to more risk and you have to go play better.”

On the matchup with Alabama junior tight end Irv Smith…

“He’s talented. He’s extremely fast. When you look across the personnel board, they have a plethora of guys that are talented skill players. I think their backs are underrated. They have unbelievable backs. They can catch the ball out of the back field. They can do all kinds of things, but Irv Smith is a matchup problem. He’s talented, a really talented guy. And he’s a good player and good blocker.”

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#94 Michael Barnett | Jr. | DT

On how different is Tua Tagovailoa than some of the other quarterbacks you have faced … 

“He has really become a student of the game. After last year, he has really come in and knows his receivers and their tendencies. He really reads defenses well and is truly a student of the game. He really understands what they are trying to execute on offense.”

On how hard is it to keep this week just like any other week recognizing there is a lot at stake … 

“I feel like we just need to have a lot of tunnel vision this week and try not to buy into the media. We just need to focus on what we have, it is just another football game. There is a lot at stake but once we realize it is just another football game and execute what we are supposed to do I think we will be fine.”

#11 Jake Fromm | So. | QB 

On keeping emotions in check during such a big week … 

“It is a big week, but we have had twelve weeks like this before. It comes down to the process and preparing just like we have for every other game. It is what it is. We have our process, we have gotten it down so we just plan to continue to do that and see how it works out.”

On being more comfortable in these situations compared to last year as a freshman … 

“I know what is going on. I know the trip to Atlanta and what the environment is going to be like. Playing in big games is fun and what you dream of. I am ready to go out and go get it.”

On his relationship with Tagovailoa …

“Yeah. Tua and I are really good friends. He is an awesome competitor, a really great football player and a great follower of Jesus. We met during the Elite 11 process when we were seniors in high school and our relationship kind of took off from there.”

On the importance of what Georgia is able to do in the run game … 

“That is big. It is huge. A big, physical run game not only helps open up the pass game, it helps late in the game, it helps control the clock, it helps the defense. A good running game really just helps play football. That is what we want to come out and do on Saturday and really just control the momentum of the game.”

#13 Elijah Holyfield | Jr. | TB

On how the back field has grown in 2018…

“I feel like all of us have done a really good job this year and I feel like we’ve gotten better throughout the year. This is the time to really make yourself a name.”

 

On looking forward to another shot at Alabama…

“The whole year, we’re just trying to get back to the SEC Championship; it wasn’t really who we play, we just wanted to get back there. I think more than anything this year, we’re just trying to focus on this game. Last year has nothing to do with this next game coming up.”

 

#13 Jonathan Ledbetter | Sr. | DE

On the progression of the defense this season…

“From the top of the roster all the way down to the bottom, it doesn’t matter who you’re going to put out there, we wanted to have a physical defense, one that runs around … and that’s really starting to form. As you can see these last couple games, everyone is hungry to get on the field, it doesn’t matter who’s out there getting on the ball.”

 

On keeping this a normal week and tuning out the noise…

“I feel like you have to tune things out, but people don’t realize it’s just football. As you get later on down the road, you play the better teams, and this is what you’ve been waiting on, this is what you’ve been working for all year, so you don’t have to blow it out of proportion, just treat it regularly, keep your nerves where they are. I think once you can do that, it shows your maturity as a team and where you are and where you’re going to go.”

 

On lessons learned and motivation after the National Championship game…

“It helps you grow up. Like I said, those tight games come down to inches. At the least, very, very small inches at the end of the game or even throughout the game. You just have to seize those opportunities and make sure that they’re in your favor and not the other team. You really just have to do whatever you want and whatever you can to make sure they come your way.”

2018 SEC Championship Week Starts With Smart, Saban

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks to members of the press in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Sep., 24, 2018. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)

ATHENS, Ga.– To open the 2018 Southeastern Conference Championship Game week, University of Georgia and University of Alabama football head coaches Kirby Smart and Nick Saban addressed the upcoming contest on a teleconference Sunday evening.

 

A championship meeting scheduled since November 3, the fourth-ranked Bulldogs and top-ranked Crimson Tide sealed their fate with respective wins against then-No. 9 Kentucky, 34-17, and then-No. 4 LSU, 29-0, on the road. Three weeks later, Georgia and Alabama check in with the top-two spots in the conference in scoring offense at 40.1 and 49.0 points per game.

 

“(Alabama’s) going to score, and they’re good at it,” Smart said. “(Saban’s) doing what they do best. I think a lot of that credit goes to (offensive coordinator Michael) Locksley and (associate head coach Dan) Enos and their offensive staff. They’ve got a who’s who star-studded cast over there on offense. A lot of their support staff, I’ve known for a long time. There are coaches that have been in pro ball over there, and they get great ideas. They’ve got great players, and they put the package together, and they’re really aggressive with it.”

 

Both teams are directed by the leading contenders in passing efficiency at quarterback with sophomore Tua Tagovailoa (212.5), junior Jalen Hurts (204.5) and sophomore Jake Fromm (179.4) at the top-3 conference spots.

 

Protecting starters Fromm and Tagovailoa are the Georgia and Alabama offensive lines, both named semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, presented annually to the nation’s top offensive unit. On the defensive side, Georgia ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring defense (17.2 points/game) with Alabama at second (13.8 points/game).

 

“Alabama’s always separated themselves in regards to the offensive and defensive lines, and this team is no different,” Smart said. “They’ve got an extremely talented offensive line, an extremely talented defensive line. That’s who they are. There are no bones about it. There’s no way around it. They’re good on both lines of scrimmage, and that’s where they try to control the game. It will be a great challenge for the offensive line. They get to go against a really talented group.”

 

The SEC Championship Game will also feature the top punt returners in the conference: junior Mecole Hardman (21.8 points/game) and freshman Jaylen Waddle (13.6 points/game).

 

“Georgia is one of the most complete teams in the nation in terms of offense, defense, special teams,” Saban said. “This will be the most challenging game we have all year.”

 

The January CFP National Championship Game marked the first meeting between the two teams with Smart and Saban at the helm. Saban hired Smart as an assistant at LSU before a one-year stint with the Miami Dolphins served as the precursor to eight seasons at Alabama together.

 

“I think Kirby has done a fantastic job, and no surprise to me,” Saban said. “Georgia has always had a pretty good program, and he has taken it to the next level. They’ve done an outstanding job of recruiting good players, and they’ve also done a really good job of developing the players and getting the players on their team to play at a high level on a consistent basis.”

 

On Saturday, both Georgia and Alabama defeated its respective in-state rival by at least 20 points before shifting sole focus to the conference title game in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The SEC Championship game is slated for a 4 p.m. start time on CBS.

 

“I’ve never been around really good teams that are focused on other teams,” Smart said. “The good teams I’ve been around are focusing on whoever they play that week. And it’s really not been different for us this year.”​

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Georgia Postgame Quotes Georgia vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart
On the win to go to 11-1:
“It’s a rivalry game. They have a good program and a good team, and our guys take a lot of pride in doing things the
right way and competing. I thought we played really hard today. …
This is a credit to our seniors, to our entire team, for buying in. We’re getting better each week.”
On defending Tech’s offense:
“The kids played hard and practiced hard. Our defensive coaching staff put a lot of effort in and it paid off. The look
from the scouts all week was tremendous. They gave us a good picture and a lot of credit goes to those kids. … It’s
an eyes football game. You’ve got to look at your keys the whole time and we did that.”
On Georgia’s offense:
“Our offense is functioning at a high level. We’re efficient and we’re getting positive plays. The offense is getting
better.”
On playing in the SEC Championship Game:
“It’s where this program should be. It feels like a game we should be going to every year. Our guys will lay it on the
line and they’re excited about the opportunity. It will be a great atmosphere, one of the best in college football. It will
be another game week for us. We’ll prepare for our opponent and treat it like every other week.”
Sophomore DL #10 Malik Herring
On the defensive performance…
“I want to give credit to our scout team because they really helped us prepare for this game and practice was actually
harder than the game.”
On the challenge of facing Georgia Tech’s offense:
“It was a challenge. We had to change our minds and get prepared for the game because their offense is so
different. We just had to prep really hard and stay focused throughout the week, even though we’re getting cut
(blocked) in practice and stuff like that, we just had to change our minds.”
Sophomore TB #7 D’Andre Swift
On what the “We Run This State” mantra means to the running backs group…
“It means a lot. The last time they [Georgia Tech] came here, the senior class lost so it’s real big for us just to send
our seniors out with this win today.”
On outgaining Georgia Tech, the No. 1 rushing offense in the nation coming into the game, 285-128 on the
ground…
“Hats off to our scout team. Our scout team did a great job of giving our defense a look because they run a real
complicated offense to stop. Our defense did a great job of stopping them today … On offense, we’re clicking right
now. I think we’re starting to peak at the right time.”
Senior OLB #15 D’Andre Walker
On snapping Georgia Tech’s two-game winning streak in Sanford Stadium…
“I feel like after this year, there will be no more years where Georgia Tech will come into the University of Georgia
and beat us in our own stadium.”
On the defensive performance…
“I feel like our scout team gave us a better look than they [Georgia Tech] could, and we just went out there and
executed.”
Georgia Tech Postgame Quotes
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
Sanford Stadium
Nov. 24, 2018
Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson
Opening Statement:
“We played against a really good football team and we played really poorly. We got ourselves dug in a hole and we
never could put together anything consistently on offense. The first drive, we make a couple first downs then got 4th-
and-1 then jump offsides. I think the first half, we got the ball a few times and didn’t do much with it. In the second
half, we got the block below-the-waist call which I talked to them about. … The game was over by then. We just
could never get anything going offensively at all. The offense needs to possess the ball for us to have a chance to
score. We didn’t do that today. Credit to Georgia, they did what they had to do to win.”
On the struggles of the defense in the first half:
“It gets masked sometimes in a game with limited possession as long as you can hold the ball and score, but we
struggled mightily on the backend. We missed a ton of tackles.”
On the offensive struggles in the first half:
“We had a hard time blocking. We never could get anything going. We’d get a first down or two. We missed reads. In
a game like that, when you miss the read and you miss your target, you keep getting buried and there’s not much
margin for error. You can’t go four possessions without scoring and expect to be in the game.”
Freshman Punt Returner Juanyeh Thomas
On catching the ball on the goal line…
“I was just thinking if I can return it I can go. I thought to myself if I can I can run it out and I did, That was it. I
followed the Georgia kick off team crashing and I just read the kick off team, hit it, and scored.”
On the kicks going over his head…
“Every game if they game goes into the end zone I’ll get mad because I want to return the ball. That’s just me
honestly.
On the rivalry…
“Honestly the hype about it was everything that I thought it was but we didn’t get the results we wanted so now we
have to focus on the bowl. We’re throwing this behind us and wanting to finish strong.”
Freshman Quarterback Tre Swilling
On Georgia’s receivers…
“Like you just said they’re really good receivers, very talented across the board. For every play they were out there
they were very physical and they’re good at what they do.”
On being confident with the score…
“Me personally I think you just have to have conference throughout the whole game and in every game the
momentum is going to go the other way at some point. That’s when you have to dig deep, remember where you
started, and not really scratch what you’re doing but focus on that and continue going. Being able to go out there and
get a stop.”
On Jake Fromm…
“He’s a really good passer I think there’s no secret about that. He’s a great quarterback, very smart. He knows where
the routes are going to be and most of the time you see that the receivers haven’t left their cuts yet but the ball has
left his hand. He has great placement and great timing. He’s a really good quarterback.”

Governor’s Cup Remains in Athens, Georgia 45 Georgia Tech 21

ATHENS, Ga.– With a 45-21 victory against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium, the fifth-ranked University of Georgia Bulldogs football team retained the Governor’s Cup in Athens for the second consecutive season.

 

With the win, the Bulldogs remain perfect at home with an 11-1 regular-season record in back-to-back years.

 

A balanced attack with 447 total yards of offense – 285 on the ground and 162 through the air – was paired with a Bulldog defense that held the nation’s top rushing offense to 66 total yards (all rushing), four first downs and one touchdown in the first half.

 

Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm opened the contest with seven-straight completions, matching up with seven different receivers for a 13-for-16 final clip with 175 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Sophomore tailback D’Andre Swift registered his fourth 100-yard rushing contest of the season with 105, complete with a touchdown.

 

With nine tackles, the Georgia defense was paced by senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, a member of a senior class that improved to 42-11, the third-best mark in school history.

 

“It’s a rivalry game,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “They have a good program and a good team, and our guys take a lot of pride in doing things the right way and competing. I thought we played really hard today…This is a credit to our seniors, to our entire team, for buying in. We’re getting better each week.”

 

After scoring seven-straight touchdowns in the first half against Massachusetts last week, the Bulldogs’ first five drives resulted in a touchdown.

 

The first Georgia possession, a 9-play, 75-yard drive, was finalized by a 5-yard touchdown from Fromm to junior wide receiver Riley Ridley. After the first Georgia defensive stop, the Bulldogs used an 11-play, 88-yard march – featuring a 39-yard rush from junior Elijah Holyfield and receptions from tight ends senior Charlie Woerner and junior Isaac Nauta – to reach the 1-yard line, where Swift fought for the touchdown and the 14-0 margin.

 

After the Yellow Jackets’ Juanyeh Thomas returned the first 100-yard kickoff return against the Bulldogs since 1999, Georgia’s distanced itself yet again with a 6-play, 63-yard drive, highlighted by a 26-yard Jayson Stanley rush. At the 12:56 mark, the 21-7 lead was sealed by a 12-yard touchdown from Fromm to sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman.

 

Next, Georgia took over on downs as the Bulldog defense held Georgia Tech at its own 44-yard line, highlighted by a tackle from Ledbetter for a 3-yard loss and a sack from freshman defensive lineman Jordan Davis for a 4-yard loss. On the following play, Georgia took control on offense, and Fromm found junior wide receiver Mecole Hardman feet from the end zone for the 44-yard touchdown and the 28-7 lead.

 

After another Bulldog stop, Georgia needed just four plays, split between freshman tailback James Cook and Swift, before Holyfield leaped into the end zone, extending the ball across the plane for the 8-yard touchdown.

 

With 48 seconds remaining in the half, the Bulldogs marched 40 yards between a 13-yard Swift rush and three-straight Nauta receptions to set up a Rodrigo Blankenship 25-yard field goal. Georgia headed into the half with a 38-7 advantage.

 

After the Bulldogs forced a three-and-out to open the second half, six plays and 53 yards later, Georgia produced a 45-7 score. Swift checked in with 39 yards on two carries, setting up a 4-yard Ridley touchdown, his career-topping second of the day, from Fromm between a pair of Georgia Tech defenders.

 

The Yellow Jackets tacked on a pair of touchdowns in the final quarter, but the Bulldogs’ 45 points held till the 45-21 final.

 

Next up, the Bulldogs head to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the SEC Championship in Atlanta against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, December 1.

 

“It’s where this program should be,” Smart said. “It feels like a game we should be going to every year. Our guys will lay it on the line and they’re excited about the opportunity. It will be a great atmosphere, one of the best in college football. It will be another game week for us. We’ll prepare for our opponent and treat it like every other week.”

#5 Georgia Postgame Notes vs. Georgia Tech

*42ndWin For Seniors And 11thThis Year: With today’s 45-21 victory, the Bulldog senior class improves to 42-11 and that tally ranks tied for third in school history with the 2004 class that went 42-10. Georgia went a perfect 7-0 at home this year. ​For the fourth time in school history since a 12th-game was added to the season in 2002, Georgia has won at least 11 games in the regular season. Georgia has gone 11-1 during the regular season in 2002, 2012, 2017 and now 2018.  In the series history with Tech, Georgia improves to 67-39-5 all-time and retains the Governor’s Cup Trophy. It was presented to Georgia coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs at midfield after the game by Governor Nathan Deal.

 

*Bulldogs Strike First – & Often: Georgia scored touchdowns on its first five possessions and six out of its nine times with the ball and added a field goal during its 11thwin of the year.  This comes after the Bulldogs scored touchdowns on all seven possessions in the first half last week versus Massachusetts and then scored on four of five drives during the second half against the Minutemen. Georgia’s first punt came in the 4thquarter, a span of seven quarters dating back to the Auburn game after not punting last week against UMass.

 

*Fromm Directing The Rout: Junior QB Jake Fromm started the game 7-for-7 (12-for-12 counting the UMass game) and hit seven different receivers and went 13-for-16 for 175 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in a little more than a half.  He hit junior WR Riley Ridley for a 5-yard touchdown to cap the opening nine-play, 75-yard drive that took 4:37.  Fromm then directed an 88-yard drive (second longest drive this season) that lasted 6:07 and was 11 plays.  Junior TB D’Andre Swift scored on a 1-yard plunge on the second drive and had 20 yards on the ground.  Fellow TB Elijah Holyfield jumpstarted the drive with a 39-yard rush.

On Georgia’s third and fourth possessions, Fromm sent scoring strikes to sophomore Jeremiah Holloman for 12 yards and to junior Mecole Hardman for 44 yards.  Holyfield returned to the Sanford Stadium end zone for the second time in as many weeks for Georgia’s fifth touchdown on an 8-yard scamper.  Junior PK Rodrigo Blankenship completed the scoring with a 25-yard field goal as time ran out in the second quarter.  In the second half, Ridley snagged his career high second touchdown grab of the game with a 4-yard catch.

 

*Another Productive Day: Georgia featured a balanced attack with 448 yards of total offense including 286 yards rushing and 162 yards through the air.  The Bulldogs had four receiving touchdowns and two scoring runs.

Junior TE Isaac Nautaled the receivers with four catches for 36 yards while Swift led the charge on the ground with 105 yards on 14 carries (7.5 avg.) and a touchdown.  This marks his fourth 100-yard rushing game in the last five contests after he played a minimal number of snaps during the 66-27 victory over UMass.

 

*Getting Defensive: Matched up versus the nation’s top rushing offense, the Bulldogs held Georgia Tech to 66 total yards (all rushing) and only seven points in the first half off a kickoff return. Tech finished with 219 total yards (128 rushing) and 21 points in the game. Tech was averaging 353.7 yards per game on the ground and 437.5 total yards.  The Yellow Jackets completed the game with 12 first downs to Georgia’s 25. Tech went 3-for-6  on fourth downs.

Senior DL Jonathan Ledbetter led the Bulldogs with a nine stops and Georgia had three sacks.  Senior ILB D’Andre Walker (7 tackles) and Jordan Davis (3 tackles) each had a sack.  Tae Crowder and Malik Herring split a sack in the first half.  Walker’s previous high was six tackles against GT last year.

 

*Giving Up A 100-Yarder: After the Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the Yellow Jackets’ Juanyeh Thomas returned Rodrigo Blankenship’s kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.  This was the first KOR for a TD since North Carolina’s T.J. Logan went 95 yards to the end zone in 2016.  Tennessee’s Leonard Scott was the last player to go 100 yards for a touchdown on a KOR against the Bulldogs in 1999. Also on special teams, freshman P Jake Camarda had his first punt since the third quarter of the Auburn game on Nov. 10.  He had a 45 yarder at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and it was the only one of the contest.

 

*Protecting The Pigskin: With one fumble today, Georgia is now +3 in turnover margin.  The Bulldogs have forced 15 turnovers that have led to 51 points. Their opponents have forced 12 turnovers that have resulted in 30 points.  Freshman TB James Cook fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter and Tech converted it into a touchdown.

 

*For Starters: Georgia had a pair of first-time starters on defense. Sophomore defensive lineman Malik Herring and junior defensive lineman Michael Barnett got the nod for the Bulldogs. Senior C Lamont Gaillard started his team-leading 40thconsecutive game while on defense, junior J.R. Reed started his unit-leading 27thstraight time.

 

*Up Next:The No. 5 Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1 SEC) make the trip to Atlanta to face No. 1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0) in the SEC Championship Game next Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 4 p.m. The Iron Bowl kicks off today at 3:30 p.m. to close out the regular season for the Crimson Tide versus Auburn.

Football Practice Report: Bulldogs Getting Set For Tech

ATHENS, Ga. – Fifth-ranked Georgia held a two-hour workout Wednesday in preparation for its upcoming home finale against Georgia Tech.

 

Saturday’s contest will close out the regular season for the Bulldogs (10-1) as Tech comes to town with a 7-4 mark. Both teams are riding four-game winning streaks. Speaking on the SEC head coaches weekly teleconference before practice, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said the Bulldogs are ready to honor their 25-member senior class.

 

“We’re excited to have our third home game in a row and looking forward to getting an opportunity to thank our senior class on Senior Day and their families for how much they’ve meant to the UGA program and what they’ve given back,” said Smart. “We want to honor them by playing one of our best games at home. I know our guys are excited about the opportunity to play Georgia Tech. We always look forward to this game. It’s a big rivalry in state, and I know both sets of fans are looking forward to it.”

 

Georgia enters Saturday’s game averaging 39.6 points a game while Tech checks in at 36.9 points a game. The Bulldogs scoring defense ranks 12th nationally, allowing just 16.8 points a game while Tech surrenders 27.5 points a game. The Bulldogs are 10th nationally in rushing with an SEC-best 257.5 yards a game. Tech’s triple-option offense averages 353.7 rushing yards a game, which leads the nation.

 

Tech’s leading rushers are quarterbacks TaQuon Marshall (857 yards on 174 attempts with 11 touchdowns) and Tobias Oliver (808 yards on 142 attempts with 12 touchdowns) while the top running back is Jordan Mason (637 yards on 102 attempts with 7 touchdowns).

 

“They are definitely running the quarterback, when you combined the fact that most times they’ve got one quarterback and they have two quarterbacks rushing at the clip they have been rushing at, it’s pretty obvious that they think very highly of those guys as runners,” said Smart. “You have to be smart on how you play them. They’re doing a good job of getting those guys on the perimeter, and they’re running the ball well.”

 

Smart was asked how the leadership on this year’s Georgia team has been, and how it has managed to follow up last season’s success.

 

“They’ve done a good job,” said Smart. “They have taken on their own roles. Each one has been different. Some guys have larger roles on the field and lesser off, and some have larger leadership roles and maybe lesser on the field. They take on their own personality. They’ve done a good job of kind of distinguishing themselves from last year because last year was last year. There were a lot of good leaders on last year’s team. They are some of the same leaders on this team, but a lot of the primary leaders on this team are younger players.”

 

Georgia’s senior class is 41-11 overall, winning SEC Eastern Division titles in 2017 and 2018, the 2017 SEC title, the 2018 Rose Bowl Game and an appearance in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game.

 

Following practice, the Bulldogs will have a 24-hour window to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. Kickoff at Sanford Stadium Saturday is slated for noon ET on the SEC Network.

Bulldogs Plan for Tech Matchup

ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Georgia football team practiced for approximately two hours on the Woodruff Practice Fields in preparation for its regular season finale against Georgia Tech.

 

The 2018 senior class picked up its 41st win last Saturday after beating UMass 66-27; the 2018 seniors are 41-11, which is tied for the fourth-best record by a class in school history. The record for most wins by a class is 44, which is held by the 2005 contingent, which won two SEC championships.

 

The Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry contest is slated for noon ET on SEC Network on Saturday, a precursor to the SEC Championship in Atlanta against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Georgia’s second-straight trip to the conference title game will be at 4 p.m. ET and broadcast on CBS.

 

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

On Tuesday practice…

“We had a pretty physical practice. On Tuesday, it’s our day to get after it a little bit more today than others. We had some pretty good cuts, had a lot of guys on the ground. I thought our scout team did a tremendous job trying to get us a picture. Certainly not exactly the speed Tech is going to give us, but we’ve had a couple kids who have been on the scout team for a few years now – (Steven) Van Tiflin, (Willie) Erdman, Prather (Hudson) – those guys are unbelievable at how fast they go out there and try to mow people down. We appreciate their effort and what they do to give us a good picture.”

 

On the challenges of a triple option offense…

“The challenge is eye control. Football, to be honest with you, has changed so much in the last 20 years…that’s nothing what this is about. This is about physicality, toughness, getting down in the dirt – backyard football. I went and watched my son play in a 6-year old tackle football championship, and I saw 6-year olds, 7-year olds, 8-year olds playing, and that’s what they were playing. 11 people in a box, and all of them hitting each other and tackling each other and tackling the man with the ball. Looks like a scrum sometimes. What a lot of people don’t do, they spread you out. Tech does a tremendous job playing physical. Some guys don’t like to get physical. If you don’t like physical, you won’t like this game.”

 

On the approach for facing an annual team with a triple option offense…

“We did a lot of that the first year because I certainly didn’t feel comfortable with it the first year. We studied people, did all kinds of things to prep for the first year. We certainly didn’t finish very well, but I think a second-year experience is helpful. There’s nothing I can say that we just went out and reinvented the second year, we made some good plays last year, and we had some good players out there. But we look at things every year, try to get better at third downs, and do the same thing with triple option, and get good ideas from different people and try to learn them.”

 

On what characteristics of the Georgia defense will make them successful against Tech…

“A lot of playing Tech is attitude. I want to hit, not be hit. I want to attack, not be attacked. That’s the approach we’re taking. We have to do a good job of selling it to your players, and I think the teams that defend it well are really the ones that enjoy playing against it.”

 

On how this senior class has elevated the Georgia program…

“I don’t know the numbers on that freshman class when they arrived, but I would argue there’s not a lot of them left because it was a really large class…since we arrived, whether by transfer, by grades, by dismissal, it seems like that class has really shrunk. Now, I don’t know the official numbers, but the ones that have stayed, the ones that have pushed through, the ones that have bought in, have really helped our program. They have a chance to be one of the top-4 senior classes that have every played here, which is pretty incredible.”

 

On the definition of roles each year…

“I think it’s on an individual basis. Certainly for every senior, there’s a guy that has had to expect his role for that year, but that doesn’t mean his role is going to be that for the next year. Keyon (Richardson) is a great example. Keyon has helped our team; he’s played on some third downs, but I mean he will tell you he wants to play more, but he’s really been a good special teams player. He’s started on punt, he’s started on some kickoff coverage, he starts on punt return, and that’s become his role. He gives us great effort; he was our Special Teams Player of the Week last week. There’s a great guy who gives us a great example. There’s (Jonathan Ledbetter), who early on, didn’t have as big a role some of the other guys were here. He played, but he didn’t have as big of a role as he does now. J.R. Reed was a scout team player for a year because he couldn’t play. Now, he’s a veteran leader and a redshirt junior who’s doing a good job. This senior class that sits across the front row, each one has their own individual story, and each one has bought into the program and given their blood, sweat and tears for whatever their role is.”

 

Senior C #53 Lamont Gaillard

On Gaillard’s last game in Sanford Stadium…

“I’m not feeling it right now, but I’m sure when the time comes on Saturday, I’ll feel it. Of course, when everyone’s screaming for you to be going to your next chapter, you’re going to feel that moment…Just us going to playoffs last year, that’s a great moment for us and our program, but just us trying to get back there, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

 

On the offensive line being named a Joe Moore Award semifinalist…

“Of course it’s a great honor to be in that award. For us, we just win to because we know we’re the best. We have guys that go down, and then we still produce when we get on the field, but we don’t focus on it. We just go out there and try to win games….There’s a lot of pride and a lot of prep. You’re going to be hurt, it’s football. But you just have to go out there and play. That’s what we try to do.”

 

Junior DB #20 J.R. Reed

On the Georgia Tech offense being “impossible” to stop…

“Nothing’s impossible…You just have to have very good eye discipline. You have to be very disciplined playing in the back game. Stopping a lot of those big passes. If you’re not disciplined and your eyes get lost somewhere, then you give up those big plays.”

 

On playing for this senior class…

“We always want to do it for the seniors. This whole season for me has been dedicated to the seniors. And just being part of those guys and being with some of those guys since their sophomore years and seeing those guys develop makes me really proud. Just going out there and doing it for them would be the best thing.”

 

Junior TB #13 Elijah Holyfield

“It’s a rivalry game. Everybody’s pretty juiced up for this one. We’re excited to go out there and play for the fans.”

 

“Lamont makes everything so easy for me as far as pass protection and running the ball. A lot of times I’m cutting off him. He’s been a really good role model to follow, and I hope we send him out the right way.”

 

Senior ILB #6 Natrez Patrick

On how Patrick would like to be remembered…

“I just want the fans to know that and remember me as a player that was willing to lay it all on the line for the team. He was willing to do whatever he needed to do to accomplish team success.

 

“The moment I will never forget was winning the SEC Championship, first of all, and being part of a team that went to the Rose Bowl and a National Championship, that’s got to be the highlight of my career.”

 

On getting creative at practice

“Definitely. When you look at the season, you may find similarities from this team to that team, but when you play Tech, the switch flips tremendously. Everything has to change. So we have to be creative and simulate all those cuts, because it’s probably going to be the hardest thing to simulate a real picture of guys coming at you on cut angles. We try to do as best we can and be creative in trying to simulate those types of things in practice.”

Georgia’s Sam Pittman Named Broyles Award Semifinalist

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the 2018 Broyles Award, which is presented college football’s assistant coach of the year.

 

Pittman is in his third year as one of the Bulldogs’ assistants.  A native of Oklahoma, Pittman is one of only two coaches on the list who are not coordinators.  Five finalists will be selected on Nov. 26 to travel to Little Rock, Ark., where the Broyles Award will be announced on Dec. 4.

 

Pittman’s offensive line has been named one of 10 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding offensive line unit.  Georgia leads the Southeastern Conference in Rushing Offense at 257.5 yards per game and also leads in SEC only games (232.8).  Georgia has started four different alignments on the line, including three freshmen and three sophomores, and has managed to average 39.6 points per game.

 

Current Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart garnered the honor as Alabama’s defensive coordinator in 2009.  Former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder received the award in 2003 while coaching at UGA.

 

The No. 5 Bulldogs (10-1, 7-1 SEC) play host to Georgia Tech (7-4, 5-3 ACC) on Saturday.  The SEC Network will televise the matchup between the instate rivals at 12 p.m.

Georgia’s Deandre Baker Named A Thorpe Award Finalist

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia senior defensive back Deandre Baker has been named one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented to the nation’s best defensive back in college football.

 

Baker, a native of Miami, Fla., joins LSU’s Greedy Williams and Notre Dame’s Julian Love as finalists, according to an announcement from the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

 

The winner of the 2018 Thorpe Award will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 6, at ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show, which will be held at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

 

A midseason All-American and Bednarik Award semifinalist, Baker has started all 11 games for Georgia and has 36 tackles and a team-leading two interceptions.  He has a team-best nine pass break-ups and is in the Southeastern Conference’s top five in passes defended with 11.  Baker also has one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for a defense that ranks 12th nationally allowing just 16.8 points per game.

 

The No. 5 Bulldogs (10-1, 7-1 SEC) play host to Georgia Tech (7-4, 5-3 ACC) on Saturday.  The SEC Network will televise the matchup between the instate rivals at 12 p.m.

How the Bulldogs in the NFL fared in Week 11

Giants 38, Buccaneers 35:

Alec Ogletree: Ogletree returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown and posted nine tackles for New York.

Lorenzo Carter: Carter had a tackle for the Giants. Among NFL rookies, Carter is tied for 13th with two sacks.

John Jenkins: Jenkins was inactive for New York.

 

Lions 20, Panthers 19:

Matthew Stafford: Stafford went 23-of-37 for 220 yards and a touchdown for Detroit. Stafford is 13th in the NFL with 2,605 passing yards and is tied for 15th with 17 touchdown passes.

Thomas Davis: Davis recorded six tackles for the Panthers.

 

Bears 25, Vikings 20:

Roquan Smith: Smith posted seven tackles for Chicago. Among NFL rookies, Smith stands tied for sixth with 70 tackles and is tied for seventh with three sacks.

Leonard Floyd: Floyd had five tackles, including two for loss, for the Bears.

Javon Wims: Wims was not active for the Bears.

 

Rams 54, Chiefs 51:

Todd Gurley: Gurley had 12 carries for 55 yards and caught three passes for 39 yards for the Rams. Gurley leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,043), rushing attempts (210), rushing touchdowns (13), total touchdowns (17), scoring (108), and rushing yards per game (94.8).

Ramik Wilson: Wilson entered as a reserve for Los Angeles but did not have any stats.

Chris Conley: Conley caught seven passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns for the Chiefs.

Justin Houston: Houston had four tackles, including a sack, and forced a fumble for Kansas City. Houston is tied for seventh in the NFL with three forced fumbles.

 

Colts 38, Titans 10:

Corey Moore: Moore had a tackle for the Colts.

Ben Jones: Jones started at center for the Titans, who had 263 total yards.

 

Saints 48, Eagles 7:

Benjamin Watson: Watson entered as a reserve for the Saints and did not record any stats.

 

Steelers 20, Jaguars 16:

Abry Jones: Jones notched a tackle for Jacksonville.

 

Ravens 24, Bengals 21:

Shawn Williams: Williams returned an interception 22 yards and led Cincinnati with 11 tackles. Williams is tied for second in the NFL with four interceptions, is 10th with 73 interception return yards, and is tied for 14th with 10 passes defended.

Geno Atkins: Atkins had two tackles, including for loss, and a quarterback hit for the Bengals.

Clint Boling and Cordy Glenn: Boling and Glenn started at left guard and tackle, respectively, as the Bengals rolled up 255 total yards.

A.J. Green: Green was inactive for Cincinnati due to a foot injury. Green is 12th in the NFL with six receiving touchdowns.

 

Bye Week:

David Andrews (Patriots)

Orson Charles (Browns)

Nick Chubb (Browns)

Jordan Jenkins (Jets)

Reshad Jones (Dolphins)

Isaiah McKenzie (Bills)

Sony Michel (Patriots)

 

Practice Squads:

John Atkins (Lions)

Davin Bellamy (Texans)

Reggie Davis (Cowboys)

Garrison Smith (Dolphins)

Maurice Smith (Dolphins)

 

Injured Reserve:

Tyler Catalina (Redskins)

Isaiah Wynn (Patriots)