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No. 4 Georgia Beats Texas A&M, 19-13

ATHENS, Ga. – The fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs defeated No. 24-ranked Texas A&M, 19-13, Saturday afternoon at a rain-soaked Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.

 

Senior Rodrigo Blankenship etched his name as Georgia’s career points leader Saturday, concluding the game with four field goals. He also extended his school record PATs-made streak to 190.

 

Freshman wide receiver George Pickens led the receiving corps with 57 yards on two completions, including a touchdown. Junior running back D’Andre Swift rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

 

Defensively, Georgia held the Aggies to -1 rushing yards and 274 total yards on 62 plays. Junior defensive back Richard LeCounte led the Bulldogs with seven tackles.

 

“We make things so complicated,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “If we had cashed in on a touchdown, the game’s over. We just couldn’t put them away. Give them credit, they had us on our heels. It was like Auburn when we were tired. We’ve got to clean things up offensively. We need to run the ball and score some points.”

 

Blankenship put the Bulldogs on the board with 8:22 left in the opening quarter, connecting on a 41-yard field goal. The field goal was Blankenship’s sixth from 40-or-longer on the season and 20th overall this season, tying his career-best in a season (2017, 20-of-23).

 

The Aggies knotted the contest on a 37-yard field goal from Seth Small just a minute and 31 seconds into the second quarter.

 

The following drive resulted in a 49-yard field goal from Blankenship with 11:38 left in the half, giving the Bulldogs the three-point advantage back, 6-3.

 

Fromm connected with Pickens on a 16-yard touchdown pass, lengthening Georgia’s lead to 13-3 with 6:44 remaining in the opening half. It was Pickens’ fifth touchdown of his rookie season. The scoring drive spanned seven plays over 65 yards highlighted by pass completions to Tyler Simmons (27 yards) and Kearis Jackson (22).

 

The Bulldogs went to the locker room at halftime holding on to a 13-3 lead over the Aggies. The Georgia defense held Texas A&M to 73 total yards in the opening half including -9 yards on the ground.

 

LeCounte forced a turnover on the Aggies’ opening drive of the second half, giving Georgia the ball on the Texas A&M 21-yard line. Georgia’s resulting drive ended on a 37-yard field goal by Blankenship, breaking Georgia’s all-time points record, previously 412 held by Blair Walsh (2008-11), and widening the lead to 16-3.

 

Small capped a six-play, 39-yard drive for Texas A&M with 4:14 left in the third, making a 35-yard field goal and bringing Georgia’s lead back to 10, 16-6.

 

Blankenship began the fourth quarter hitting a 31-yard field goal, bringing the Bulldog advantage back to 13 at 19-6.

 

The Aggies sliced the lead to six with 11:16 left in game on a touchdown pass to Jhamon Ausbon, 19-13.

 

Up next, Georgia matches up with in-state rival Georgia Tech next Saturday, Nov. 30. The game will kick off at 12 p.m., noon, on ABC.

Bulldogs Focused On Texas A&M

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during the Bulldogs' session on the Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

ATHENS, Ga. – The fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs conducted a two-hour practice Wednesday with the Southeastern Conference game against No. 24 Texas A&M on the horizon.

Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC) plays host to the Aggies  (7-3, 4-2 SEC) Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m., ET, on CBS.  Before practice, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart participated in the SEC Football Weekly Media Teleconference and provided an update on the Bulldogs. After practice, Bulldog junior offensive lineman Solomon Kindley, redshirt-freshman wide receiver Kearis Jackson, and junior outside linebacker Walter Grant met with the media to discuss the upcoming contest with the Aggies.

 

Selected comments from Smart and the student-athletes follow:

 

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement

“We’ve got Texas A&M coming to Athens for the first time since they moved into the conference. We’re anticipating an unbelievable atmosphere. {Head coach} Jimbo (Fisher) has got a good football team. If you watch them on tape, they have gotten better and better throughout the year. They have as much talent as anybody in our conference. They’ve done a great job recruiting. It’s going to be a big challenge facing them and a quarterback like Kellen Mond who is extremely versatile and athletic.”

 

On the first things that jump out at you when you watch Texas A&M

“First thing is the multiple formations, the personnel groupings they use offensively. They have a lot of offense to defend. The athleticism on defense would be the biggest thing overall, team speed. They’ve very consistent on special teams. When it comes to special teams, you see all the starters on there. It’s like you’re playing in the SEC, and you go to turn the tape on, and you’re like oh gosh they got good really players at every position and you realize you’re going to be in for a war.”

 

On the Aggies offense being different compared to other SEC teams

“It’s different when you see the two-back runs. That’s not a thing that everybody uses anymore. A lot of people create two-back runs with their tight end. These guys are almost like three-back runs because they have the two backs and the tight end they use. They move the pocket really. Jimbo (Fisher) does a good job, he changes it up, he keeps you off balance. They’ve got a lot of passing game that they’re able to run in a lot of situations.”

 

On development of Georgia’s wide receivers

“We’re fighting for number one experience. We’ve got two really young receivers out there that are playing a lot of snaps in George (Pickens) and Dom (Blaylock). We’ve got a lot of inexperienced guys having lost predominately all of our pass catchers. We’d like to see some more consistency, more physical blocking, see some separation. We’re trying to do a good job of helping them whether it’s scheme or opportunities off play action. We’re trying to help them and they’re trying to help us. What I love about them is that every day they go to work they really fight to get better. It’s been a group that’s really been beat up and banged up the whole year. Every guy has almost missed a game or missed an opportunity. We’re trying to gel at the right time and bring these guys along and make some plays.”

 

On linebacker Monty Rice’s development

“I think number one his confidence in the system is at an all-time high. Early on, he was talented and didn’t really know the stuff. Last year, he knew it better, and he was banged up some. This year, he’s been healthy and been really confident. He understands things. He knows checks. Things are happening for the 100th time instead of the 40th or 50th. He understands how to use the tools of the defense. He is playing with confidence. He’s one step ahead and sometimes one step in football, is the ability to make a lot of plays.”

 

On the Aggies defense this season

“They’ve gotten better. They’ve done a really good job of improving throughout the year. They’re fast, they’re athletic. They’ve got good experience on the back end. I can’t say enough about the job the defensive coordinator (Mike Elko) has done. He was at Notre Dame. They’ve always created havoc and caused turnovers. They create another tough matchup which seems to be the norm in our conference.”

 

Junior offensive lineman Solomon Kindley

On his first meeting and impressions of Sam Pittmann…

“My first impression is kind of funny. I think I’ve told the media before, but my first impression, when I first saw Coach Pittmann, he came to my school and I was playing basketball. My first time seeing him, I talked to him before on the phone, he came to my school … The next day, I go for a layup and I missed the layup, I was like, oh man, my first impression for Coach Pittmann is ‘Solomon Kindley is not an athlete, he missed a wide open layup with nobody on him, just missed it.’ But other than that, it showed that Coach Pittmann is a father figure to you, not just on the field but off the field, he is going to push you to be great as a player and a man every day.”

 

On the criticism of the offense being a weak link…

“We don’t listen to the outside, we keep what we can keep inside, that’s our family, our brotherhood. We come to work every day no matter what anyone says, because like you said, when we’re up, they say we’re the best, when we’re down, they say we’re the worst. So that’s what a team is, we come together every day and fight and we try and get better every day, we don’t worry about what anybody says because the only thing that matters is what’s in front of us and what we’ve got going on today.”

 

On giving Lawrence Cager advice as a player who has come back from injury this season…

“Lawrence is a vet anyway, coming from Miami, all I do is tell him to get treatment and try and get the healthiest that he can. Lawrence stays in treatment, he gets here every morning with Mr. Ron (Courson) and gets treatment every day to try and be better every day. That’s all I pretty much tell him is take it slow but do as much as you can to get treatment, stay in the training room. So that’s my main thing that I can give him tips on about getting healthy.”

 

Redshirt-freshman wide receiver Kearis Jackson

On whether his near-touchdown catch at Auburn was his best…

“I think I haven’t had one better than that, but that’s up to me. I’ve got to have more room on the sideline. I need to make those catches, keep my feet in bounds and I’ll make that catch next time.”

 

On his emotions during that play…

“I’ve just got to come back and make the next play. That’s when my number was called and whenever that play gets called, I’ve just got to come back because that [previous] play is out the window. Like I said, I’ve just got to come back and be ready for the next play.”

 

On the vibe among the team currently after the Auburn game…

“It was a dog fight. I mean, Auburn has a good team and Auburn has a great defense. They’re physical, they’re big and we had to be ready. After that game, I promise my whole upper body was sore because it was so physical by blocking. After that, that game is out of the way and we’re focused on Texas A&M. We’ve got a big game this weekend.”

 

Junior outside linebacker Walter Grant

On Tyler Clark…

“Tyler is an animal. He brings energy whether it is in practice or in the game. If his guys aren’t doing anything, he is going to get on them and push them. Tyler is a guy that brings energy.”

 

On prepping for Texas A&M’s offense…

“We always look forward to finding something new. We watch film for it so I feel like it will be like any other game in the way we prep for it.”

 

On if Texas A&M’s offense will increase his role…

“I wouldn’t say it will be more of an increased role. I would just say that it gives more of an opportunity for different players in different spots to switch up the defense a little bit.”

 

On Texas A&M’s quarterback Kellen Mond…

“He is a great athlete. He is a runner and a great passer too. He is an all-around good player.”

Thomas, Smart Earn Semifinalist Status With Outland, Munger Awards

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia junior left tackle Andrew Thomas has been named a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy while Bulldog head coach has been included on the list of semifinalists for the George Munger Award.

 

Thomas, a native of Lithonia, Ga., is one of six semifinalists for the Outland Trophy, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman.  Former defensive lineman Bill Stanfill has been the Bulldogs’ only winner of the Outland Trophy in 1968.  Three finalists will be named on Nov. 25 and the recipient will be picked during ESPN’s The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 12.

Smart was awarded the 2017 Munger Award for being the nation’s top coach and was also a semifinalist in 2018.  The 1998 UGA graduate is in his fourth year leading Georgia’s program.  Voters will determine the finalists on Dec. 9 and the announcement of the winner will be on Dec. 29.

 

Thomas is tied for the lead in career starts on offense with the quarterback (Jake Fromm) that he protects with 38, including all 10 this year and the last 21 in a row.  The 6-5, 320-pound Thomas was a 2019 Sporting News/CBS Sports/Athlon/ESPN.com/AP Midseason All-American, has been named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week twice this year and was the Outland Trophy Player of the Month in October.

 

Thomas has anchored a line that has allowed only six sacks, which leads the SEC and ranks second nationally.  The Bulldogs’ Rushing Offense is averaging 208.6 yards per game, which is ranked fourth in the SEC and in the top 25 nationally, and has been a catalyst for the Bulldogs’ 3-0 run versus teams in the top 25 this season.  The 2017 Freshman All-American turned himself into a 2018 First Team All-American and was on last year’s SEC All-SEC First Team.

 

Smart has directed the Bulldogs to three straight SEC Eastern Division titles and a No. 4 current College Football Playoff (CFP) ranking.  Georgia leads the conference and is ranked in the top six nationally in Scoring Defense, Rushing Defense and Total Defense during its 9-1 start.  Fromm is directing an offense that is averaging 32.4 points per game and has a running back in junior D’Andre Swift who has eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second consecutive year.

 

The No. 4 Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) play host to No. 24 Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 3:30 p.m.

 

Bulldog Offensive Line Named Joe Moore Award Semifinalist

ATHENS, Ga. — The Bulldog offensive line unit has been named one of 10 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding offensive line unit.
The Joe Moore Award voting committee will announce the award’s finalists on Dec. 10 and the selection of the award will be made public after a surprise visit to the winning university’s campus in late December.  Georgia is one of four teams from the Southeastern Conference on the list.
The Bulldogs offensive line is led by 2018 Broyles Award semifinalist Sam Pittman.  Pittman’s unit has allowed just six sacks through the first 10 games, which leads the SEC and is ranked second nationally.  Georgia is ranked fourth in the SEC in Rushing Offense, averaging 208.6 yards per game.  The Bulldogs have started six different alignments on the line, including four sophomores, and has led an offense that has averaged 32.4 points per game.
 
The No. 4 Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) play host to No. 24 Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 3:30 p.m.

Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship Named Burlsworth Trophy Finalist

Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (98) speaks to members of the media at a press conference on Monday, Oct., 1, 2018. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia graduate place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has been included as one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding football player in America who began his career as a walk-on.

 

Blankenship and the other two finalists – California’s safety/kick returner Ashtyn Davis and Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes – will be honored and the winner will be announced at a luncheon in Springdale, Ark., on Dec. 9.  The event will be hosted by the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, in conjunction with the Springdale Rotary Club.

The trophy is named in honor of Brandon Burlsworth.  Without one D1 scholarship offer, Brandon walked on to the Razorback team in 1994, worked his way to being a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998.  Burlsworth was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL draft, but was tragically killed in a car accident 11 days later.  The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children who have limited opportunities.

 

Honors have already begun to roll in for Blankenship.  The five-time 2019 Southeastern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week has earned one of the National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar Athlete Awards; is a finalist for the Campbell Trophy; and he is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and Wuerffel Trophy.

 

Blankenship, a native of Marietta, Ga., is the SEC’s second leading scorer this year, averaging 9.2 points per game, and has connected on 19-of-22 field goal attempts and all 35 of his PATs.  He has drilled three 50-yard field goals during his team’s 9-1 start.  Blankenship is the FBS active leader by 11 with a total of 72 made field goals.

 

The former walk-on who earned a 2018 UGA undergraduate degree is a 2019 CBS Sports/Athlon Midseason All-American.  Blankenship has connected on a school record 189 consecutive PATs, which ranks second in SEC history.  Thanks in large part to his contribution, Georgia leads the nation with 280 PATs in a row dating back to 2014.

 

The 2018 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team member and 2018 SEC Community Service Team member has been just as exceptional away from the field as he has been on the field.

 

Blankenship is a member of the UGA Athletic Association’s Leadership Academy (L.E.A.D.) and has served on the SEC Football Leadership Council the past two years.  He has given his time to the following activities and many more: spokesperson for “No More,” which is a public service announcement against domestic violence and sexual assault; visitation at Camp Sunshine, which is a camp that provides support programs for children with cancer and their families; volunteer for the “Empty Bowl” luncheon, which is a luncheon sponsored by the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia where hand-painted ceramic bowls done by the football players were part of a silent auction to raise funds for needy families; and volunteer for the Home Runs for Hometown Rivals, which is a softball game at UGA’s Foley Field for Special Olympians.

 

The No. 4 Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) play host to No. 24 Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 3:30 p.m.

Georgia’s J.R. Reed Named Bronko Nagurski Trophy Finalist

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia graduate safety J.R. Reed has been named one of five finalists for the 2019 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

 

Reed, a native of Frisco, Texas, joins Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young as finalists.

 

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet will be held on Dec. 9 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

 

Former Bulldog and Pro Football Hall of Famer Champ Bailey has been Georgia’s only winner of the honor in 1998.  Another pair of former Georgia defenders in current Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith (2017) and current Indianapolis Colts linebacker Justin Houston (2010) were also finalists.  In addition, former Bulldog three-time All-American and current ESPN commentator David Pollack was a finalist in 2002 and 2004.

 

Reed, already semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe and Bednarik awards, is fourth on the team with 43 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and has one of the team’s six interceptions.  Starting a team leading 39th straight games, Reed forced a fumble during the shutout victory over Kentucky and collected a fumble that he returned 14 yards for a touchdown earlier this season against Murray State.

 

Thanks in part to the contributions listed above, Reed has helped put Georgia at the top of the SEC in Scoring Defense at 10.5 points/game (No. 2 nationally), Rushing Defense at 75.5 yards/game (No. 3 nationally) and in Total Defense at 267.2 yards/game (No. 6 nationally).  UGA has allowed just a single rushing touchdown and leads the nation in Red Zone Defense (62.5 percent).

 

The No. 4 Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) play host to No. 24 Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 3:30 p.m.

Bulldogs In The NFL — Week 11 Recap

Rams 17, Bears 7

Todd Gurley, RB: Gurley had 25 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown for the Rams. He added three catches for 36 yards. Gurley stands sixth in the NFL with seven rushing touchdowns and seventh with eight overall touchdowns.

Natrez Patrick, LB: The Rams rookie logged 15 special teams snaps, but he did not have any stats.

Roquan Smith, LB: Smith paced Chicago with 11 tackles, including one for loss, and he had an interception.

Leonard Floyd, LB: Floyd posted two tackles and a quarterback hit for the Bears.

Javon Wims, WR: Wims had an 11-yard catch for the Bears.

Riley Ridley, WR: The Chicago rookie was a healthy scratch.

 

Browns 21, Steelers 7

Nick Chubb, RB: Chubb carried 27 times for 92 yards for the Browns. Chubb is ranked third in the league with 1,011 yards rushing and 10th with six rushing touchdowns.

 

Cowboys 35, Lions 27

Matthew Stafford, QB: Stafford was inactive for the second straight week due to a back injury. Stafford stands third in total offense at 303.5 yards per game and fourth in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns.

John Atkins, DL: Atkins had two tackles for Detroit.

Isaac Nauta, TE: Nauta is on the Lions’ practice squad.

 

Colts 33, Jaguars 13

Justin Houston, DE: Houston had a sack and two quarterback hits for the Colts.

Chris Conley, WR: Conley caught six passes for 58 yards for the Jaguars.

Abry Jones, DL: Jones logged 37 defensive snaps and seven on special teams, but he did not have any stats.

Terry Godwin, WR: Godwin is a member of the Jaguars’ practice squad.

 

Bills 37, Dolphins 20

Isaiah McKenzie, WR: McKenzie had three catches for 21 yards and a 10-yard rush for the Bills.

Reshad Jones, DB: Jones had six tackles for the Dolphins.

John Jenkins, DL: Jenkins posted two tackles for Miami.

Jonathan Ledbetter, DL: The Miami rookie is on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

 

Jets 34, Redskins 17

Jordan Jenkins, LB: Jenkins had two tackles and defended a pass for the Jets.

Maurice Smith, DB: Smith is a member of the Redskins’ practice squad.

 

Patriots 17, Eagles 10

Ben Watson, TE: Watson had three catches for 52 yards for the Patriots.

Sony Michel, RB: Michel carried 10 times for 33 yards and had two catches for 11 yards for New England. Michel is 10th in the NFL with six rushing touchdowns.

Isaiah Wynn, OL: Wynn is on New England’s injured reserve list with a toe injury. He is expected to play this week against Dallas.

David Andrews, C: Andrews is on the Patriots’ injured reserve list for the season.

 

Raiders 17, Bengals 10

Shawn Williams, DB: Williams posted nine tackles for Cincinnati.

Geno Atkins, DL: Atkins had five tackles, including 1.5 sacks, and two quarterback hits for the Bengals.

Cordy Glenn, OL: Glenn was on the Bengals’ inactive list (coach’s decision).

A.J. Green, WR: Green was on the Bengals’ inactive list due to an ankle injury.

Davin Bellamy, DE: Bellamy is a member of the Bengals’ practice squad.

 

Chiefs 24, Chargers 17

Mecole Hardman, WR: Hardman returned two punts for 22 yards and posted two catches for 13 yards for the Chiefs. Among NFL rookies, Hardman ranks first in receiving touchdowns (five) and punt return average (14.8), second in total touchdowns (five), fifth in receiving yards (450), and sixth in kickoff return average (23.0).

Thomas Davis, LB: Davis led the Chargers with 12 tackles and he defended a pass.

 

49ers 36, Cardinals 26

Lamont Gaillard, OL: The Cardinals rookie was a healthy scratch.

 

Panthers 29, Falcons 3

Elijah Holyfield, RB: Holyfield is a member of the Panthers’ practice squad.

 

Bye week: Giants, Titans.

 

Week 12 Schedule Involving Bulldogs

(Games are on Sunday unless otherwise noted)

Colts at Texans, Thursday; Broncos at Bills; Giants at Bears; Steelers at Bengals; Dolphins at Browns; Panthers at Saints; Lions at Redskins; Raiders at Jets; Jaguars at Titans; Cowboys at Patriots; Raiders at Rams, Monday. Bye week: Cardinals, Chiefs, Chargers.

 

A Pair Of Georgia Football Players Earn SEC Weekly Awards

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia junior inside linebacker Monty Rice and sophomore punter Jake Camarda have earned weekly Southeastern Conference honors, according to a league announcement.

 

This marks the first SEC weekly honors for both Rice and Camarda.  So far this year, Georgia has had 11 weekly league awards.

 

Rice, a native of Madison, Ala., led all tacklers with 10 stops, including eight solos, during the Bulldogs’ 21-14 win at No. 12 Auburn.  This marked the third game of his career with at least 10 tackles and the fourth time he has led Georgia this year.  Rice anchored a defense that held Auburn scoreless for three quarters as they ran a total of 86 plays for the game, which is the most an opponent has run against UGA in the Kirby Smart era.  Rice and the defense held yet another team under 100 yards rushing and allowed just the first rushing touchdown of the year through 10 games.

Camarda, a native of Norcross, Ga., posted a 50.7 average per punt on 11 attempts during the victory.  He had four punts inside the 20-yard line and two punts over 60 yards.  Camarda finished with four punts that measured over 50 yards during the team’s ninth victory of the year.

The No. 4 Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) play host to No. 24 Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 3:30 p.m.

Georgia-Georgia Tech Game Time

The Saturday, Nov. 30, football game between Georgia and Georgia Tech in Atlanta will kick off at

12:00 noon ET and be televised by ABC.

This will be Georgia’s first appearance on ABC this season.  The Bulldogs’ all -time record on ABC is 46-27-2.

Smart, Bulldogs Preview Texas A&M Game

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks at a press conference in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug., 27, 2018. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)

ATHENS, Ga. —  University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday’s game against Texas A&M. The Bulldogs and Aggies kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

On Monday, Coach Smart and student-athletes offered the following comments. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement … 

“Murray [Poole], thank you for everything you’ve done. You’ve been awesome and a pleasure to work with.

Before I get started and move on, I would like to apologize for something I said after the game Saturday night. That’s not indicative of who I want to be or what I stand for, and you know you messed up when you get home to your wife and she’s more upset that — you won the game, but she’s more upset at something you said, and that’s not what I represent and that’s not the kind of behavior I want to have. So I want to say that to Dawg fans out there and everybody. I’m going to try to handle that a lot better. And it was an emotional win, and I was very emotional in that, but gotta do a better job than that.

To Chamberlain [Smith], I also want to say she comes to every Thursday night to this event in here. We have a radio show. She’s here with us every Thursday night. She takes pictures. She does an outstanding job. And that was a very scary moment, I know, for our players and for me, because we looked over, and she was motionless at the time, and it was a pretty scary situation, I know, for Brian [Herrien] and Jake [Fromm]. But we want to wish her well and thank her for all the work she does. She does a tremendous job.

With that, I’ll give a couple updates on the injuries. I don’t ever know exactly who you’re asking about, but Cade [Mays] is banged up. Don’t think he’s going to be able to practice today, but we think he’s going to be able to play and he’s going to be able to hopefully practice Tuesday.

Ben [Cleveland] is still fighting the injury bug, too, on lower extremity. We’re hopeful he’s able to go. And then [Lawrence] Cager will be cleared to practice. Just be a matter of whether he can sustain.

A little bit about Texas A&M. Jimbo Fisher is an unbelievable coach. This team will probably be one of the most talented teams we’ve played against. We all know who their three losses are against. I feel like the three losses are against Top 10 teams that are really, really good football teams. And they have an immense amount of talent. As far as their receiving corps will be one of the best we’ve played against. They have a total of eight or nine starters back on offense. Really, basically every position outside tight end and a running back is coming back for their team. And when you watch them on tape, it really jumps off the film at you.

So our kids understand the challenge we got. It’s part of the grind in the SEC to be beat up and have to play another good football team. And that’s what they are. They’re coming to Sanford Stadium for the first time. So Jimbo and I have been on a staff together before. Obviously Coley and him have been on a staff together for a while and got a lot of respect for the way his teams play. And they’re really good in all three phases. So this will be a big test, after an emotional win that we’ll have to prepare really well for. So with that, I’ll open it up.”

On Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond being dangerous with the run and passing … 

“Very much so. He is probably improved as much as a player from high school to now as any quarterback I’ve ever seen. I liken it to when Dak [Prescott] first went to Mississippi State and Dan [Mullen] took him and did all these really good things with him, Jimbo has really — this kid has a tremendous arm talent. We know the athlete he is. We know he can run. But it’s not like you say this guy is a runner first. He’s a really good passer, and the beauty of it he plays in a pro-style offense and throws to some really good weapons and checks things, moves things around, but is extremely athletic. And when I say athletic, I don’t mean, oh, he’s going to scramble for a first down. When he takes off running, he continues running. And there’s guys out there that just can’t catch him. He doesn’t always look to do that, but when he does, it’s extremely dangerous. Makes you play him a different kind of way, so we’ve got a tough charge in front of us.”

On Texas A&M running backs Isaiah Spiller and Cordarrian Richardson   

“I hate to compare it, but it’s completely different football, so don’t misquote me on this. But it’s like the triple option of today when you have two backs in the back field, because nobody knows really how to defend it anymore. Coach Dooley is back there; he could probably tell you how to defend it, because you toss the ball and you run a sweep, and nobody knows how to handle a lead blocker. Now, they don’t do that all the time. Don’t get me wrong, but when they do it, they’re very efficient. He still has option plays; and it keeps people honest. It keeps you from saying, I’m going to do an overload this way or I’m going to do one of these unsound defenses to go attack the quarterback when they run an option play. And they do a tremendous job of it. They’re very different runners, but he did some of the similar same things at FSU when he had Dalvin. He uses some different plays to really highlight the two backs he has. And they’re running the ball more and more efficiently as the seasons — like you can see how they’ve gotten better and better and better at running the ball every game, and it really came to fruition against South Carolina.”

On if his players take on his passion and personality … 

“They probably do. Our players have passion and energy. I have it. I wear my feelings on my sleeve all the time. You see it out there, when Travon [Walker] got a sack. That’s kind of who I am. You just gotta be able to control that and make good decisions, and I didn’t do that. So I regret that part of it. But I also am the one that has to represent this organization, and I want to do that the right way. And it was an emotional win, but obviously we moved on to Texas A&M now, and that’s the focus.”

On this being Texas A&M’s first trip to Athens and if they should play more often … 

“Yeah. Don’t know how to make it happen other than a nine-game conference schedule. It’s crazy that they’ve been in how many years? You all know better than me…So that’s how many years? Seven years and they still haven’t played Georgia. That’s kind of wild to think about. But I mean I know their fanbase is passionate. I mean from when we played there at Alabama, they bring — you will see their fanbase in Athens, because they all want to make this trip, just like it’ll be reciprocated when we go there whenever that is. So very passionate fan bases. It’s sad that doesn’t happen often enough, but our conference is big and we got a lot of good football teams, so it takes time to circle it and go all the way around it.

I’m not really here to debate the nine-game schedule versus the eight-game schedule. It’s just that’s the way it fell, and that’s who we got. I know this: Their team is not intimidated by any environment. Okay. They go to Clemson and play. They go to Tuscaloosa and play every year. They get to play at Auburn every year. They get to play at LSU every other year. I mean, that’s not going to be what this game is about. They grew up in Texas high school football. 80 percent of their team is Texas made. So they got a good football team, and they got a team that they’re going to be in every game they play, because they’re well coached and they got good football players.”

On the running backs breaking longer runs… 

“You know, there were several runs the other day that were close. They were good runs. They just weren’t super explosive where we got to the second level. Some of that’s the back end. Some of that you don’t create the angles when all the extra guys are in the box. You can attribute it to a lot of things. I attribute it to good defense. I think of Auburn, you turn on that tape, they run to the ball. They hit. They tackle. They got really good, a lot better than people even thought, corners, and they’re physical up front. So they got a good football team. And so does Missouri, guys. I mean you start looking at it, they got good football teams in our conference. I mean look at us defensively. We’re not giving up a lot of explosive runs either. So across the board it’s tough to do that, and we’re certainly looking, trying, reaching, trying to find ways to create those advantageous situations. But I just know our conference is very defensive when it comes to rankings and statistics. There’s a lot of good teams in it.”

On the running backs playing with a chip on their shoulders… 

“I think the whole team is that way. I think you play better when you have a chip on your shoulder. And I certainly think the defense and special teams would be in the same boat as the offense of — you’re motivated — I always say this — intrinsically not through what people say and write, because when you’re motivated by that, it controls. And the narrative is, oh, well, everybody said bad things about Georgia, so then they start to play better. That’s really not the case. The case is they’ve worked really hard to get better and improve. And sometimes the outcomes we have are based on what the opponent does, not based on what we do. And each guy on our offense, I guarantee you they’re giving the best they can. They’ve had great practices. We go against them good-on-good. I see them make good plays. Just hasn’t come to fruition in a game, at least not against Auburn as often as we’d like. We had good drives, and I thought the offensive staff did a really good job. The three touchdowns we had were all plays they come up with and designed and had for Auburn. They weren’t every-game plays. They were plays meant to help us against Auburn, and they did.”

On coming up with new plays to execute… 

“It’s never difficult to come up with new things. But you have to be careful, good football teams do what they do. Best football teams I’ve been around, they’re not tricking you. You don’t trick people in our conference. You block ’em. You don’t scheme ’em. You find a way to get your best player or whoever your guy is a way to be successful. So I don’t know that we can just scheme them up. But we certainly had new wrinkles to the same plays that proved to be successful in that game, and they hit at the right time, because a lot of our drives didn’t amount to much, but the ones that did didn’t end in field goals. That’s probably more important than having a bunch of field goals. And that proved to be the difference, at least in that game.”

On facing opponents coming off a bye week and the disadvantage that brings the offense…

“About the off week, obviously we don’t control that. I couldn’t remember what you said first. But I didn’t realize that, if that’s the case, five of the last six seems — that seems crazy. I didn’t realize that that was the case. I didn’t know the stats, somebody said, about them being 9-0 after off weeks, or Gus had been 9-0 after off weeks, and I’m glad nobody told me that before the game.”

On how teams use the bye week… 

“Well, I think you rest your team. Most coaches have a philosophy in the bye week you don’t go practice for the other team you’re going to play. Kids get sick of it. You can’t practice for the same team for two straight weeks without getting fed up with it. I’m always concerned with that. What you do is you rest your team, you look for new ideas. You look for new plays, new wrinkles, a new way to do the same thing. I think that part helps you, but you’re also always concerned about coming off an off-week how they’re going to respond.”

On the improvement of the run defense over the last three years… 

“I think Dan (Lanning) has done a good job. This is no knock on Mel (Tucker), because I’m as much responsible for it as anything. Dan’s done a good job of bringing — whether it’s new ideas, less risk averse. We got secondary back. I mean, when you got a new secondary and you got true freshmen, true freshmen or sophomore that haven’t played back there making — because last year’s defense was almost so completely new, because if you go back to the year before that, there were kids that had played for three and four years off that team that went to the National Championship. So it was a tough year defensively, man. You were holding on every time somebody moved or motioned. This year you feel more comfortable being aggressive, and we’re reaping the benefits of experience.”

On blocking out the outside noise of playoffs and the future…  

“That’s not a message. You don’t control that. These kids live and die by these things, man. I mean they got them with them. They’re going to see it. They’re going to hear it. What you try to emphasize is the facts. Here are the facts. If we block and tackle people, we’re pretty good. You know what I mean? If we block and tackle people, if we do simple better, we’re pretty good. If we don’t and we turn the ball over and we don’t play well on special teams and we give up big, explosive plays, we’re not very good. So what’s going to allow me to do those things? None of the other stuff matters. None of it matters. So if you get their focus on playing better and getting better, especially the second part of your roster, because we got 2s that are having to play now. So now this week more 2s are going to have to play. The next week maybe more 2s are going to play, because you got more guys getting injured. So how do I get the rest of our roster better is really all we focused on.”

On how important punter Jake Camarda’s overall performance was on Saturday night…
“In that moment it was obviously one of the pivotal — I mean it was a field position game. So with him doing that, he flipped the field position, did a tremendous job. Can’t say enough about — I mean the thing about all the confidence in sticking with him, we’re at practice every day. So you don’t get the fortune of seeing that. But he does that all the time. So everybody’s like, well, is Jake going to continue to be your punter? Yeah, he hit 60 yards at practice. It’s just a matter of when it comes to fruition in the game. You just keep working with him. I think psychologically he’s handling things a lot better, and mentally he’s been much stronger and he’s done a really good job. He was very impactful in that game, and just hope he can continue to do that. And we have to cover him well, because you can outkick your coverage when you punt. He’s close to doing that. He’s just booming the ball, but we’ve had good coverage with him.”

On if it seem like quarterbacks are getting hurt more often and if he finds himself thinking more about injuries…

“Well, I think this has been talked about several times. I do think they’re getting hurt at a little higher rate than usual. I don’t know if that’s an outlier or if that’s going to become the norm. I think it’s because design of offenses is all NFL mentality, get the backs out, get everybody out. You don’t see people max protect; you don’t see people seven-man protect. You see people run their quarterbacks. That’s an extra option to rush the ball. As offenses have grown and scoring has exploded, so has the exposure of quarterbacks. And defenses take less regard for contain, for true base defensive principles, and all they look for is how can I hit your quarterback. Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s what they’re trying to do. That’s what we try to do; that’s what everybody tries to do. So when you do that, they get hit more, and when they get hit more, they get injured more. And I don’t think the trend is going to go away. I think our conference and NCAA rules are trying to protect quarterbacks more, so we actually coach the decision you make to stay off the quarterback, because that’ll kill you, and they’re protecting them. But ultimately they’re getting hit more, legally hit. And that creates more injuries, which is tough.”

On D’Andre Swift’s ability to get to 1,000 yards at this point in the season… 

“He’s always been really talented. I don’t know- the talent, maybe his quickness, his knowledge, his protections, his route running, all that has improved throughout his career. Dell (McGee) has done a great job with him. But he’s always been uber talented the whole time he was here. He was just playing with some really good players in the back field. What I think this year has shown is the exact question everybody had: Can he endure, can he take on the load, can he handle the responsibility of X number of carries, whatever that number is, and I think he’s proven that, that he can do that well. And I mean, to me he’s one of the most talented players in the country. He makes things happen when they’re not there, and we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”

On previously coaching against Jimbo Fisher…
“Yeah. We had one game I think the first year maybe. I was on staff with him at LSU, and I’ve been around Jimbo almost all my life. As a player, he was a coach coaching there at Auburn and things. So I’ve been around Jimbo a lot, got a lot of respect for him, and he’s always been a close friend.”

On the impact the senior class had and final departing thoughts for them as they play their last game in Sanford against Texas A&M…
“Just proud of everything they’ve meant to our program. Some of those seniors are part of our first class. A few of those, I don’t know how many, the Tae Crowders and Mike Barnetts were already here. So it’s a unique group. It’s the first group that we’ve had for four years, and I’m happy for them. I want them to be able to enjoy the moment, but also understand that there’s a very emotional game following it up. When you have the senior day, it’s always an interesting dynamic for those guys because they go out and have a different routine before the game. But they’ve meant so much to this program. Just want them to know that our university and our alumni will be here for them forever, regardless of where they go on to, that we’re going to help them and they’re Dawgs for life.”

On how this team stacks up against the previous two years being 9-1, as far as health and the evolution and where they stand…

“I think every team is different. You know, it’s really different because you think about three years ago this week or whatever week it was, you’re in completely different position. I mean you’re coming off being undefeated and getting your butt whipped, to last year, more similar to this year, having one early. And then each year is different. I think this team is getting better. I think the biggest things — I mean this team is going to be defined what it does going forward, not what it’s done in the past. And that’s always the case. And this is a big one, because they have a really good football team, and our guys are coming off an emotional victory where we have to go get prepared for the grind of the SEC, which is another good football team.”

On defining third-and-manageable in offense, looking at the three-and-outs, and if there is a common theme in terms of down-and-distance…
“Well, manageable, with our offense, third down has been anything from 1 to 12. I mean, we’ve had a lot of success on third-and-long during the year. I certainly don’t want to be in those, and if you want to keep people off balance and you want to change things up, you’re going to have to live with some third-and-tens, because you’re not always going to complete some shots and some explosive play actions. But it’s something we’re always looking to do, to not be as predictable. And it’s also, we have to serve who we are, and we have to make sure that we can get into those situations where Jake (Fromm) has a chance, whether it’s to win it with his feet or he has a chance to win it with shorter routes or keep them honest on the run in third down. But obviously we have to improve in that area, and this will be a big test for us.”

#51 David Marshall | Senior | DE 

On what has led to the improvement in the run defense… 

“We just worked on it the whole year, the whole spring, during fall camp. It improved with that and we have a lot of talent on the defensive line. There’s just so much talent on the defensive line this year. We worked really hard on it so it would make an impact in the game.” 

On what Coach Dan Lanning brought to the run defense side of things… 

“He brought a lot, puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He wants more tackles for loss, more sacks, more interceptions, so we just practice on that the whole season. We prove in the game when we can stop the run and stuff.” 

#17 Eli Wolf | Graduate Student | TE

On what he thinks about the rhythm of Georgia’s offense, specifically considering last weekend’s game against Auburn…

“Auburn’s defense gave us a lot of problems. They’re a very talented group, but we expect more out of ourselves. We expect to get third-down conversions, and we weren’t doing that very well. First and second downs lead to third downs, so we’ve got to do better on those, too. [Our offense] was a little stagnant, but we’ve just got to look at film and get better, and we’ve got to execute better this week.”

On the ways the passion of Georgia coaches affects the players…

“It rubs off in a pretty big way. Everyone can see the passion [Coach Smart] had after the game was over, and it was really cool to see. It’s really awesome, as a player, to see that your coaches are that much more invested— it’s not always that you have a head coach who is so tied into your program, so it’s awesome to see.”

On his thoughts about senior day and the impact Georgia’s seniors have had on his transition to UGA…

“The seniors here have been awesome, and they took me in right away and treated me like family. It’s going to be an emotional day, but rightfully so. A few guys will probably tear up, but that’s what that day is for, and these guys have given four years to this program— five in some cases — and it will be great.” 

#13 Azeez Ojulari | R-Freshman | OLB

On facing a mobile quarterback in Kellen Mond…

“He’s a very mobile quarterback. He can run, he can throw. He’s very mobile so it’s going to be a very different type of game plan this week for sure.”

 

On being back in this spot after losing to South Carolina…

“We always knew we controlled our own destiny, we always knew we could be back in this position and just continue to work and do what we have to do to get back.”

 

On blocking out the noise regarding the future…

“We try to do is focus on one game at a time and focus on this week for sure. We just go week-by-week and we’ll get there. It’ll work out.”

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