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No. 5 Georgia and No. 7 Baylor to Meet in 86th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl

January 1 Game to Feature the SEC’s Bulldogs and the Big 12’s Bears

NEW ORLEANS – No. 5 Georgia, from the Southeastern Conference, and No. 7 Baylor, from the Big 12 Conference, will be featured in the 86th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, January 1, 2020, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This will be the 58th Sugar Bowl match-up between teams ranked in the Top 10 and the 32nd match-up of 10-win teams. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:45 p.m. (Central) and will be televised by ESPN.

Tickets are available by visiting www.Ticketmaster.com.

This is the fourth match-up of teams from the SEC and the Big 12 since an agreement was signed by the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the two elite conferences. The Sugar Bowl will host the top available teams from those conferences five times in the next seven years – in the other two seasons (2020 and 2023), the Sugar Bowl will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal. The agreement runs through the 2025 season.

“The Allstate Sugar Bowl is honored and excited to host two of the best teams in the country,” said Monique Morial, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “For 85 years, the Sugar Bowl has built a tradition of hosting great college football action, and thanks to the SEC and the Big 12 we have the chance to build on that this year. This match-up between the Bulldogs and the Bears not only represents great football but also great fun.”

The Allstate Sugar Bowl is the designated destination for the champions of both the SEC and the Big 12. However, with SEC Champion LSU and Big 12 Champion Oklahoma both qualifying for the College Football Playoff (CFP) based on their top-four national rankings, replacement teams were designated by both conferences. The SEC assigned Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC) as the Bulldogs own the SEC’s second-highest CFP ranking while Baylor (11-2, 8-1 Big 12) is the Big 12’s designee as the conference runner-up.

“This Sugar Bowl match-up is ideal for the Bowl and for New Orleans,” said Sugar Bowl CEO Jeff Hundley.  “Not only do we get to welcome two top-seven teams, we get to renew an old friendship with Georgia, who was just here last year, and start a new one with Baylor as the Bears make their first Sugar Bowl trip in over 60 years.  It’s going to be a special week for everyone involved.”

This will be the fifth all-time meeting between Georgia and Baylor – the Bulldogs won all four meetings by an average of just 6.8 points and all four were played in Athens. The teams’ first match-up was a 24-14 decision in 1972 while the last meeting was a 15-3 Georgia win in 1989. The Bulldogs also won 16-14 in 1978 and 17-14 in 1985.

This will be the 15th Sugar Bowl meeting between teams that now make up the Big 12 and SEC. The first meeting came in the second Sugar Bowl in 1936 when TCU and Hall-of-Famer Sammy Baugh held off LSU and its own Hall-of-Fame quarterback Abe Mickal, 3-2, in a quagmire. Those teams split national championship recognition that season. The last Big 12-SEC meeting in the Sugar Bowl was the 2019 game when Texas posted a 28-21 victory over Georgia. The Big 12 holds a 9-5 advantage entering this year’s game.

Georgia will be making its 11th Sugar Bowl appearance and is the 20th team to make back-to-back appearances in the game – the Bulldogs played in three straight Sugar Bowls from 1981-83. Georgia has a 4-6 all-time mark, including a 1981 victory over Notre Dame which capped an undefeated national championship season for head coach Vince Dooley’s squad. Baylor will be making its second Sugar Bowl appearance – the Bears upended Tennessee in the 1957 Sugar Bowl as Baylor legend Del Shofner earned Most Outstanding Player recognition.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is making his second Sugar Bowl trip as a head coach while Baylor’s Matt Rhule will become the 98th different coach to lead a team to the game.

Schools that are currently in the SEC have registered an all-time mark of 36-43-1 (.456) in the Sugar Bowl, while this will be the 23rd appearance in the game by a current member of the Big 12, with an overall record of 14-8 (.636).

The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 50 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 85-year history. The 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2020. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors nearly 100,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit www.AllstateSugarBowl.org.

 

Georgia Falls to LSU in SEC Championship, 37-10

ATLANTA – Facing the nation’s No. 2 offense, the fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs fell, 37-10, to the second-ranked LSU Tigers in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game Saturday evening at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

 

With the loss, Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC) fell to 3-5 all-time in the SEC Championship, including a 1-3 mark against LSU (13-0, 8-0 SEC).

 

The Bulldogs amassed 286 yards on offense, led by junior quarterback Jake Fromm, who went 20-for-42 with 225 yards and a touchdown. LSU continued its strong offensive season with 481 yards, including 349 from senior quarterback Joe Burrow.

 

On the opening drive, Georgia neared midfield thanks to an LSU facemask penalty on third down, but a pair of drops stalled the drive. The Tigers moved efficiently on their first possession, bolstered by a 24-yard run by Burrow, who snatched his deflected pass out of the air and ran into Bulldog territory. On the ensuing play, LSU struck first with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase, creating an early 7-0 advantage.

 

After both teams punted, Georgia crossed midfield for the first time as Fromm found freshman receiver Dominick Blaylock for an 11-yard reception on third down, but the Bulldogs came away empty as senior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed from 52 yards out. LSU soon took advantage of the miss, with Burrow finding Terrace Marshall, Jr. for a 41-yard reception, and later, a 7-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone.

 

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs opened with their most successful drive of the game to date, as Fromm moved toward the red zone with a pair of long completions to senior receiver Tyler Simmons and junior wideout Demetris Robertson, but they would have to settle for a 39-yard field goal from Blankenship to cap a 10-play, 53-yard scoring drive.

 

Following LSU’s first 3-and-out of the day, Georgia looked to steal momentum, but Fromm was sacked and injured on a safety blitz by Grant Delpit, although he would return on the next possession. LSU once again moved efficiently via the passing game, but freshman linebacker Azeez Ojulari’s third-down tackle of Burrow forced the Tigers to kick a 41-yard field goal by Cade York, bringing the score to 17-3.

 

Returning from injury for a two-minute drill, Fromm led the Bulldogs to the LSU 40-yard line with two completions, but his ensuing pass was intercepted by Derek Stingley, Jr. at the 13-yard line with 1:39 remaining in the half. With LSU looking to expand its lead, the Georgia defense held strong at their own 30-yard line, forcing three straight Burrow incompletions and a missed 48-yard line field goal, keeping the score 17-3 at halftime.

 

LSU began the second half with a lengthy 16-play, 77-yard scoring drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock, culminating in a 28-yard field goal. As they did on the final drive of the previous half, the Georgia defense remained stout in the red zone, including a sack of Burrow by sophomore nose tackle Jordan Davis.

 

Georgia then embarked on a prolonged possession of their own, running 12 plays over four minutes, including an 18-yard reception by freshman receiver George Pickens on 4th-and-8 at the LSU 35-yard line. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the drive proved fruitless as a dropped pass in the end zone led to a missed 37-yard field goal by Blankenship.

 

Following the missed kick, LSU sealed the game with a pair of quick scores, spurred by a 71-yard pass from Burrow to Justin Jefferson on the first play of their drive. After a touchdown pass to Marshall made the score 27-3, Fromm was intercepted again by Stingley, Jr., allowing Burrow to find Jefferson for an 8-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

 

In the fourth quarter, both teams added to their final tallies, with Fromm finding Pickens on a 2-yard pass for Georgia’s lone touchdown of the game, while York notched his fourth field goal, a 50-yard kick.

 

Georgia will now await its bowl game destination, which will be announced tomorrow afternoon.

2019 SEC Football Championship Game – Friday Press Conferences – Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

Friday December 6, 2019

Kirby Smart

Georgia Bulldogs

THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by the head coach of the SEC Eastern Division Champion Georgia Bulldogs, Coach Kirby Smart. We’ll ask Coach Smart to make an opening comment and then take your questions.

KIRBY SMART: Excited to be here again. Certainly had a great week of practice. Our players are excited for the opportunity to play in what we always say is one of the greatest sporting events in all of college football. I think the history and tradition of the SEC speaks for itself. I know being a south Georgia boy growing up, it was probably the biggest game you looked forward to seeing every year because the champion of this conference has carried itself well for many years, especially in the public eye.

Our players have earned the right to be here. We’re excited. I’ve got a lot of respect for the LSU team we’re about to play. Coach Orgeron and his staff have done a tremendous job, number one, recruiting, but also developing the players they have into a system that really fits what they do. So got a the lot of respect for him. Looking forward to an awesome game and an awesome atmosphere.

Q. You’ve got some freshmen playing defense and some wide receivers as well. Given this is the 13th game of the season, how much do you see growth from them? How different is a freshman at the end of the year in a game like this than from where things started?
KIRBY SMART: They’ve got a lot more confidence from the first game, but you do always say, okay, this game’s a pretty big game. How does that impact those guys? Each year we’ve been here, we’ve had freshmen that have gotten better throughout the year and, I think, have developed throughout the year.

I think back to last year defensively, I know we had guys play major roles toward the end of the season, and that’s kind of been the same way this year defensively with several guys having an impact throughout the year. Offensively, same way with the young group of wide receivers and the skill guys that have been able to help us. I think that’s big.

But when you play in the SEC and you play these week in and week out tough, hard fought games, these guys have gotten accustomed to these kinds of battles throughout the year.

Q. Kirby, I know Chase and Jefferson down the field, two great receivers. A lot of times Joe Burrow likes to dump it off to Clyde Edwards-Helaire. So what kind of pressure is that going to put on your defensive backs and linebackers to defend that well with the ability to throw the little short pass and make big gainers out of the backfield?
KIRBY SMART: They’ve got a lot of guys they can throw it to. The three you mentioned are tremendous, and they’re really good at getting those three guys the ball, but they have so many weapons. If you just so happen to cover them all, Joe Burrow is one heck of an athlete, and he can hurt you with his feet. So it’s a great opportunity.

I mean, when you watch tape on them, you have nothing but respect for what they’ve been able to do because I know the caliber of the defenses they’re doing it against. Those are good defense that’s they’re out there putting up 40, 50, 60 points. They’ve done a tremendous job.

Q. I remember you spoke after the Florida game about spending some time with Jake, just kind of checking in on him. One, have you kind of continued that throughout the year? And, two, how has Jake Fromm grown and progressed in your eyes through the season?
KIRBY SMART: Not to the level, I haven’t been able to continue. I see him every day at practice. We obviously share time together, but we haven’t gone to lunch or do anything like that. With the schedule we have, it’s a little tough to keep. It’s more of my free time comes on off weeks.

Jake is a tremendous leader. He always has been. He shoulders blame and gives credit. I think it’s what strong leaders do. He’s a tremendous person, and he’s done a great job with our offense and making sure they’re in the right football play.

I don’t think everybody understands the pressure that he carries and the burden he carries to do a lot of that each game. He does a lot of film work and a lot of film study to do that, and I’m really proud of the way he’s been able to handle everything this year.

Q. When I’ve heard you speak of Coach Orgeron, you speak very highly of him. It seems that coaches generally have a high respect for one another. Can you speak to the job he’s done after what happened at (indiscernible). I know a lot of people counted him out after that.
KIRBY SMART: You can say this, in the coaching profession, everyone has respect for Coach O. Number one, he’s a great person. He’s fun to be around. He’s an elite recruiter. I remember as a young coach the first time I ever heard of Coach O, you would hear stories, and they were just crazy stories. I mean, you heard all these things, and he’s got such a charisma about him and a character about him that you enjoy being around him.

I have the great fortune at every SEC meeting of having F on my left, Florida, and L on my right, Louisiana, so I get to sit between those two guys. It’s definitely a big contrast. I enjoy getting to visit with Coach O.

Q. Joe Burrow, when he was coming out of high school, did you know much about him? I know when he was a graduate transfer, you weren’t really in the market for him. Was there any interaction with him during those times?
KIRBY SMART: No, I can’t say that — we didn’t really recruit him out of high school. I actually think, when he was coming out of high school, I may have been in Alabama. That was during the year he was getting recruited to go to Ohio State. Then, no, we did not recruit him as a grad transfer or wasn’t aware of him coming out.

Pretty amazing the talent he has and how much he has developed. It goes to show you that a lot of these quarterbacks, they get better and better and better, and when the perfect quarterback meets the perfect system with some really good skill players around it, that’s what you combine to get.

Q. I’m just curious, how important is it to have a guy like J.R. Reed, a vocal leader in the back end, to correctly align guys to make sure they’re in the right situation, especially against an offense like LSU, who you’re going to face tomorrow?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, he’s critical. You always say the point guards are the leaders of the basketball team, things like that, quarterbacks on offense. Those safeties on defense are the guys that have to be your signal callers. They’ve got to get the signal, and they’ve got to take that signal and apply it to the formation, and then they’ve got to apply the rules for the week, and then they’ve got to put people in the right place and make signals back to the people in front of them. So there’s a direct line of communication going on.

J.R. and Richard have been able to handle those things. We put a lot of pressure on them because we want to give kids tools to be successful. When you play a really good team like this, you can’t line up in the same thing over and over. They certainly do a great job of exposing weaknesses.

Q. Every year you guys play Florida in these neutral site games, and that gives you a chance to play in these big stadiums. How much of an advantage do you think that gives you in this situation especially since LSU hasn’t played a neutral site game this year?
KIRBY SMART: Last I checked, LSU plays in big stadiums. They play in Tiger stadium. They get to go play in Jordan-Hare Stadium. They play in Tuscaloosa. They play in some incredible venues. I get your point about neutral site, but would you rather play in a neutral site game, or would you rather play in a road game in the SEC?

I think neutral site games kind of even things out. It’s not the same level of crowd noise that you have. I always thought in Jacksonville neither team had to deal with real crowd noise because it’s not all of one or all of the other. That, to me, is tougher. It’s tougher for us to play at home defensively because we communicate a lot and it’s really loud. When we go on the road, it’s tougher on offense.

When you go to a neutral site, yeah, it can get loud, but it’s not to the point that it affects the game as much in my opinion.

Q. How much weight do your guys put in having experience in this game and this atmosphere and even a playoff game?
KIRBY SMART: I don’t know that you put weight in it. I just think, when you play in the SEC, the games you play in — LSU plays Texas. The atmosphere for that game, LSU goes through the gauntlet of their season. We go through the gauntlet of our season. In the SEC, these games are essentially championship games every week because, if you don’t win them, you’re not in the championship. So they’re very competitive. It’s really like another week that you’ve got to go out and perform and play because you’re playing the best from the other side.

So I don’t get that there’s a competitive advantage for either team having played in this kind of game or this venue.

Q. Kirby, I’ll be the guy to ask. What has D’Andre progress been like this week? Do you feel like he’ll be 100 percent? Or if not, how close to 100 percent do you think he’ll be playing at?
KIRBY SMART: It’s hard to tell in practice. At this point of the season, you don’t go out and tackle and hit and do all those things. We practice against each other, and he’s practiced. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I’m excited to see him go play, and we’ll have the expectation that he’ll play well.

Q. With that said, Coach, I know throughout the season you’ve touched on this, Brian Herrian, just how pleased you’ve been with how he’s progressed throughout the season, and he’s a difference maker.
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, he’s an incredible story of a kid that went from not even signing anywhere on Signing Day to coming to Georgia, and if I could count the number of carries he’s gotten that weren’t in a game, because he carried the ball so long when Nick and Tony were there and he took so much pride in getting every carry. He was patient last year behind Holyfield and Swift, and he’s earned his right. He runs with a level of passion that I respect. He’s been a really good leader for our team.

Q. Coach, we talk a lot about LSU’s offense and the way they pass the ball, but how do you guys particularly plan on stopping the run game, especially with Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
KIRBY SMART: Clyde Edwards-Helaire is one of the best backs I’ve seen in this conference. He’s got a presence about him, an ability to run pass routes, to break tackles. He does a tremendous job. They use him really well. He complements what they do because he is a pass receiver and he’s a tremendous runner. So it will be a challenge. I have great respect for them, and they’ve broke about every record there is in the SEC offensively. It will be a challenge for us. I know our defense is excited about that opportunity.

Q. Last year you guys went against LSU. How much different is this team here, and what can you say about their turnaround?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, extremely different. You can see remnants, some hollow elements, but the unique thing now is they’re really just doing anything they want to do. They don’t have to do anything. They do anything they want to do, and whatever they want to do, they’ve been really successful at in all the games. Outside of maybe the Auburn game, they did whatever they wanted to do whereas last year they were probably a little bit more predictable, and they wanted to be a little more run oriented. They’ve gotten to where now they can do what they want to do offensively and then they’re successful doing that.

Q. The other day Dabo Swinney made a comparison to his team’s playoff resume compared to how the media and the selection committee treats your team’s playoff resume. How much do you think an SEC team deserves the benefit of the doubt in a playoff conversation on the basis of the perceived depth of the league?
KIRBY SMART: I think that’s a great question. It’s a great question for media and for talking heads, but it’s not a great question for me because we have to go out on the field and play and perform. That’s really where I try to focus, so I try not to let any of that outside noise to affect how we prepare.

Q. You said you’re excited to be here again. How routine does that get? What’s it like to do it back to back to back? How much does it raise the bar for you guys in terms of what you hope to get out of this for the end of the season?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I’m excited to be here because I love the venue, I love the opportunity to go play in it. It also means you did something, you accomplished something, you won your division. I don’t think you’ll ever take that for granted.

I think, if you ask any SEC coach that’s had the opportunity to come here, whether it’s two years in a row, three years in a row, or whatever it was, it’s earned. You earned that. Our kids have done that. It’s not something we take lightly or take for granted. It’s something that we expect to do, and we’re going to always set that as a bar because, for us, this is where you go to go take the next step, and that’s important for us.

Q. Now that you’re at this point in the season looking back, how much did that loss to South Carolina and adopting a playoff mentality after that, how much did that help you guys get to this point in the season, and does it help you tomorrow at all?
KIRBY SMART: I don’t know. I think we learned a lot about ourselves from that game. You say you play with your backs against the wall. Your back’s against the wall every week because of this league and this really format of college football, it only takes one sometimes. You lose control of the things around you if you don’t perform well, and you start hoping and wishing on other people.

So it probably was better for an awakening internally for some guys and for team members than it was the overall our backs are against the wall because you’re in playoff mode every week in the SEC.

Q. Kirby, what influenced you in your early days as an assistant coach at LSU that you still carry on today?
KIRBY SMART: Man, those are some early, early days. It was my first full-time coaching job in the SEC, and I was really young. Coming into Nick’s staff was an awakening in itself. It was an exciting — it was a year of growth for me. I still relish the memories and the people. Every time we played LSU, you see people that are still part of the program and have a lot of respect for the LSU administration and the people that were there when I worked there. It’s a tremendous place. They love their football.

Q. Is it pretty remarkable what Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger have been able to do with just pretty much a fall camp and everything to be able to have the offense progress like it has? Not only now but even from the beginning of the season.
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, it is — look, it’s not a complicated system that they do. What it is, it is some tremendous chess pieces that are doing it. When you add together a quarterback, a back, an offensive line that has five returning starters and an unbelievable group of wide receivers, you can do a lot of things and be successful.

What they’re doing is putting a package together that matches exactly what you need, an athletic quarterback that can move around the pocket, that can make plays, extend plays, scrambles for first downs left and right. But then on top of that, you’ve got a guy that can make good decisions where he’s getting five outs every play and using the weapons he has.

They don’t sit there and beat people with scheme now. They don’t go out there and say, okay, we’re going to scheme this. They run very similar plays from different formations, but they’re highly, highly efficient at doing this.

Q. Following up on that, it seems like they adjust well over four quarters. How difficult is it to confuse them and keep them from adjusting?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, they’ve done well in the first quarters too. They score a lot of points throughout the game. I do think they find good matchups, find adjustments, find things they can do. But you don’t have to adjust a lot when you’re scoring at the rate they’re scoring. They’re high octane, very efficient, very effective. When you go through a breakdown and you’re looking for more third downs and you can’t find them, that’s usually a sign somebody is pretty good because they’re not getting a third down very often.

Q. We hear a lot about LSU’s offense all the time, but what kind of challenges do you see their defense poses for the offense, just from a perspective of LSU’s defense?
KIRBY SMART: They have an incredible group of guys who have played better and better and better. You can tell they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder. The last two or three weeks, they have pass rushed with a different dynamic. They’re using their athletic guys to rush the passer. They’ve got a tremendous secondary that we got to watch them — I got to see them more on tape, as we played Auburn and we played Florida. You could see the talent that LSU has in the secondary because they’re able to put their hands on people and cover what we knew are two really good teams.

Got a lot of respect for Dave Aranda and their staff, and they’ve got their guys playing really well now.

Q. Kirby, so much made of the LSU star power. Your defense, is it oversimplifying to say it’s a no name defense, or are there some rising stars and guys that you would point to as keys for Georgia’s season?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, people have kind of said that about them. I don’t think there’s — there’s not that dominant personality or dominant player, but there’s a lot of good football players that buy into it. We play a lot of guys. So it’s easy to kind of label it a no name type defense, but I just — I think they play so well together, they play so hard, they buy into the game plan, and they’re unselfish. There’s a lot of guys that have been unselfish.

There are some talented young players on it that I think are going to be really good, but for the most part, it’s led by older players.

Q. Coach, you just talked about LSU’s offense and how they get off to a quick start in the first quarter. For your team, how imperative is it going to be for you to match that intensity and match what they’ll throw at you right off the bat?
KIRBY SMART: It’s always important. You want to get off to a good start. That’s a big key for every game. You don’t want to lose momentum early. You want to be able to maintain that and start out aggressive and handle it well. Every coach wants to start that way. A lot of it is how prepared are your kids? How well can you adjust in games? How well can you handle adversity? Because both teams will face adversity in this game, and a lot of that is how you respond to it.

Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship Named SEC Football Scholar-Athlete Of The Year

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia graduate place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship is the fourth Bulldog in history to be named the Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year for football, according to a league announcement on Thursday.

 

Blankenship, a native of Marietta, Ga., joins David Greene (2004), Aaron Murray (2013) and Chris Conley (2014) as the Georgia players to earn the honor.

 

Blankenship graduated cum laude with a degree in Digital and Broadcast Journalism in December 2018 thanks to his 3.71 GPA.  The 2017 and 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District selection is currently working on his Master’s degree in Journalism and has a 3.65 GPA.  Blankenship has served on the SEC Football Leadership Council and is a member of the UGA Athletic Association’s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) group.

 

Off the field and on the field honors have rolled in for Blankenship this season.  The six-time 2019 SEC 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, Lou Groza Award and Burlsworth Trophy; and he was a semifinalist for Wuerffel Trophy.

 

Blankenship, a native of Marietta, Ga., is the SEC’s second leading scorer this year, averaging 9.6 points per game, and has connected on 24-of-28 field goal attempts and all 115 of his PATs.  He has drilled three 50-yard field goals during his team’s 11-1 start.  Blankenship is the FBS active leader by 15 with a total of 77 made field goals.  After scoring 13 points in the victory over No. 24 Texas A&M, he became UGA’s all-time leading scorer and now has with 428 points, which ranks second all-time in league history.

 

The former walk-on was a 2019 CBS Sports/Athlon Midseason All-American.  Blankenship has connected on a school record 197 consecutive PATs, which also ranks second in SEC history.  Thanks in large part to his contribution, Georgia leads the nation with 288 PATs in a row dating back to 2014.

 

The No. 4 Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1 SEC) face No. 2 LSU (12-0, 8-0) in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 4 p.m.

Georgia’s Jake Fromm Named SEC Football Community Service Team

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.  The Southeastern Conference has included Bulldog junior quarterback Jake Fromm on its Community Service Team for football, according to a league announcement on Wednesday prior to Saturday’s SEC Championship Game between No. 4 Georgia and No. 2 LSU at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.

The SEC names a Community Service Team for each of its 21-league sponsored sports, looking to highlight a student-athlete from each school who gives back to his community through superior service efforts.

The 2019 SEC Football Community Service Team is as follows:

Jake Fromm, Georgia
Fromm, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., is an Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member and a Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year semifinalist. He participated in ESP’s “Bulldogs and Buddies,” which welcomed individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to Georgia football practices. Fromm is also a repeat visitor to Camp Sunshine, a facility which provides recreational, educational and support programs for children with cancer and their families. In addition, Fromm reads to children in Athens area schools.

Chris Owens, Alabama
Chris Owens has been an active member in the Tuscaloosa community, volunteering in nearly 20 different initiatives, with an emphasis on impacting the local youth. Since arriving on campus in 2016, Owens has visited several local schools like Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary to promote the importance of reading while sharing some of his favorite books. Most recently, Owens spent the day helping to rebuild neighboring Lee County in tornado relief.

T.J. Smith, Arkansas
T.J. Smith has participated in multiple Lift Up America events, helping sort food for the various volunteer groups across Northwest Arkansas, worked with the Boys & Girls Club, packed meals for families in need for the Fearless Food Fight and has visited sick children at the Arkansas Children’s Northwest Hospital, among other things. He is also involved with the Arkansas Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and represented the Razorbacks as part of the SEC Leadership Council.

Derrick Brown, Auburn
Derrick Brown is a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, known as College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service. He is a Pop Warner National Football Award finalist, a Senior CLASS Award finalist, Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award semifinalist, member of SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Council for football and Auburn SAAC vice president. Brown also participated in mission work in the Dominican Republic and spent time building homes in Montgomery and Auburn with his church.

Tyrie Cleveland, Florida
Tyrie Cleveland has worked with more than 10 different community service organizations including SAAC sponsored events such as Breakfast Buddies, Gator Move, Gator Tracks, Q&A/Read to Kids, Climb for Cancer and multiple elementary school visits. Meanwhile, Cleveland has also volunteered his time with the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, Saint Francis House and at Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine event, recording over 40 hours of volunteer work to give back to the community this past year.

Landon Young, Kentucky
Landon Young has been a guest speaker at local churches and elementary schools on seven different occasions, talking about life lessons, fighting through adversities, faith and football. He volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and helped decorate Lexington’s Hope Center – a recovery program for women, with Christmas decorations. Young also volunteered with Lexington Christian Church to do yard work for members not physically able to take care of their yard.

Blake Ferguson, LSU
Blake Ferguson is a two-time Chair of SEC Football Leadership Council and has twice been nominated for the AFCA Good Works Team. He was named a semifinalist for Campbell Trophy. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in high school and now mentors children with the disease. Ferguson is active in with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on LSU’s campus and participates in numerous community service events in Baton Rouge area.

Mac Brown, Ole Miss
Mac Brown has helped raise nearly $75,000 for ALS research with the Awesome Lemonade Stand. He participated in Honduras Volunteer Mission, helping a local orphanage by digging ditches and planting lemon trees. Other community activities include: Sweetheart Ball for residents of senior assisted living facility; Clownfish Fish in which he aided disabled kids with swimming; and Adopt-A-Basket, a Thanksgiving food basket prep and delivery to less fortunate families.

Kody Schexnayder, Mississippi State
Kody Schexnayder has been a part of a bevy of community service activities, including the Pink Dawg Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness, Walk to School Day, Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, Vacation Bible School, Emerson Elementary School Reading Day, Miracle League, Boys and Girls Club, Special Olympics, Palmer Home for Children and Children’s Hospital visits. He also serves on the Community Outreach Sub-Committee of MSU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the SEC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Daniel Ellinger, Missouri
Daniel Ellinger’s community service activities include reading to area grade school classes and visiting local children’s hospitals. Ellinger has also served as a volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club.

Spencer Eason-Riddle, South Carolina
Spencer Eason-Riddle, who was selected for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, has been a regular at the Dorn VA Medical Center, Transitions Homeless center, and at the oncology center of the Prisma Health Children’s Hospital. He founded and developed the “Sandstorm Buddies Program” which matches USC student-athletes with patients and their families, where they can serve in a mentor capacity with cancer patients. Eason-Riddle was also nominated for the Wuerffel Trophy.

Matthew Butler, Tennessee
Matthew Butler logged over 65 hours of community service over the last semester, including a two-week sports-based service trip to Rwanda as part of the VOLeaders Academy. He was one of three football student-athletes selected for the VOLeaders Academy, which is a program that aims to cultivate positive student-athlete leaders through sport to create positive social change. Student-athletes admitted into the VOLeaders Academy learn how to be a positive force for their team, campus, and local and global communities.

Braden Mann, Texas A&M
Braden Mann won the Ray Guy Award in 2018 and came back for his senior season and graduated in May of 2019 with a degree in University Studies and Sports Conditioning. Braden has been active with Twin City Mission, a homeless shelter in Bryan where he has spent many hours serving food, mentoring and even cleaning the facility. Mann was a semifinalist for the Wuerffel Trophy in 2019.

Cody Markel, Vanderbilt
Cody Markel created Turner’s Heroes, a non-profit organization honoring Vanderbilt classmate and co-tight end Turner Cockrell, who died Nov. 29, 2019 after an extended fight against melanoma. Goals of the organization are to fund discovery grants for pediatric cancer research and bring joy to pediatric patients by hosting superhero parties for the youngsters and their families. The events focus around capes designed by the patients that are reproduced by Turner’s Heroes.

Georgia Continues Preparations for LSU

Georgia tight end Eli Wolf (17) during the Bulldogs' session on the Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

ATHENS —— The Georgia Bulldogs continued their preparations for their SEC Championship contest against #2 LSU with a two-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.

Head Coach Kirby Smart, along with tight ends Charlie Woerner and Eli Wolf, as well as junior OL Solomon Kindley and redshirt sophomore DB Eric Stokes, fielded questions from the media after practice.  Excerpts from their sessions follow:

Head Coach Kirby Smart:

Opening Statement

‘’Practice has been good.  Guys were really focused and energized.  You can tell the extra juice flowing out there.  It’s nice to see it.  It’s nice to be practicing, and I’m excited about the opportunity.  Certainly, the more you watch these guys (LSU), the more you realize why they’re so good.  But our guys are really excited.  We’ve had two really good practices in the books.  Gotta be smart about how you practice this time of year, so we’re having to do tempo walks, do some good-on-good, try to take care of their legs.  But at the same time, expose them to what’s going to be a really physical, good football team.’’

Are you practicing exclusively indoors all week or have you been outside some?

‘’No, we’ve been outside, I would say, probably 25 to 30 percent of the practice, mainly because of the legs.  The turf is probably a little harder on the legs, so we get some out, some in.  Plus, we just don’t have enough space in there.  So we do most of it inside.’’

How good do you think it is for the game, for the SEC, to have a guy who is as colorful a character as LSU Coach Orgeron?

‘’It’s awesome.  I think it’s more important what he does with his team than what he says. Obviously, words only go so far.  It’s your actions and your team’s performance, and he certainly spoke loud and clear with that because they played really well in big games.  He keeps his team good and loose and they play to his character.  I think it’s great for our conference.  I think we’ve got a stellar group of coaches in our conference.’’

When you look at what Ed (LSU coach Orgeron) has done at LSU, and what Nick (Alabama coach Saban) did with Tua, how hard is it for a defensive guy to kind of go against the way you’ve been brought up and believed in, to sacrifice some of the physicality?

‘’I don’t think it’s hard.  I mean, if you can score points like they’re doing, that’s great.  What’s bad about that?  I think we all want to do that some.  It’s not who we are.  We don’t have a team built like that.  We’re not built like those two teams.  We’re built very differently.  And that’s not always by nature.  It wasn’t like, all of a sudden, Alabama just decided they were going to throw the ball.  They got a stellar group of wideouts in one gathering.  It was like they all came in at once, and they became really good players.  Same thing at LSU.  They’ve had good wideouts over the years, but they’ve got a really stellar group at the same time, along with a transfer quarterback that has been impeccable.  So I don’t know that philosophically both of those guys just made huge changes, as much as they inherited two really good quarterbacks that are unique, that can do special things, and they’ve got some special players around them.’’

Is there a sense that, with losing Cager for the season and George Pickens for the first half, that the offensive game plan for the first half will be different than it has been all season?

‘’I don’t know about that.  I mean, you can’t change who you are completely in a week.  Certainly, we’ve got different groupings, different packages, different use of guys, a lot of big guys.  We’ve got tight ends, backs, receivers, but not as many as we’ve normally had.  But I don’t think there will be major wholesale changes in a week.

(On possibly increased role for the tight ends)  I don’t know if I’d say that.  Everybody’s important, so the wideouts that are playing are important, the tight ends that are playing, the backs that are playing.  I mean, everybody is important.  It’s important to be able to run the ball.  You can’t put one thing over another.  The things that indicate success is don’t turn the ball over and explosive plays.  We’ve been good at one, and we’ve been just OK at the other.’’

How much of LSU’s use of its wideouts may alter your personnel?

‘’They probably do the least personnel groupings of anybody we’ve played because they go tempo.  So they go fast.  They don’t change who’s in the game.  They may change the person, but not the position.  So, they’re in ’11’ personnel a lot, which is one back, one tight end and three wides.  It may look like four or five wides because they’re all out there and they’re all really good receivers.  And they’re really good skill players.  That’s what makes them unique, but it’s not necessarily five wides.  This team is really good for them because they can do all things with the same people.  So when you take this grouping and you say, ‘this is the empty grouping.  OK, this is the big, 12, hit-you-in-the-mouth grouping.’ They do it all with the same grouping.  So then you’re forced to decide, ‘Hmmm, what do I want to try and take away?’  And that’s tough.’’

With the 20-hour rule, how important is it for your culture to have guys on your defense like Monty Rice and J.R. Reed doing extra stuff?

‘’That’s incredible.  I mean, you can’t get by in college football with 20 hours.  It’s impossible.  You can’t do it.  So they’ve got to do extra.  They’ve got to do things on their own and the right kind of players do that.  I think that’s really important in recruiting, that you recruit a guy that holds himself to a standard that’s bigger than just, ‘I’m gonna give you my work, Coach, and then I’m gonna go check out.’  But it’s not just those two.  There are countless guys in here.  Everybody keeps telling me about Monty and J.R.  There’s more than them.  Guys are up here non-stop.  Offensive players are the same way.  They enjoy it.  They love football.’’

Is D’Andre Swift still on course to play Saturday?

‘’Yeah.  I mean, he’s been out there, doing what we’ve asked him to do.  He’s practicing.  He’s just banged up, man.  It’s tough, but he’s a warrior.  He’s a fighter.  We’re expecting him to be able to go.  He’s practicing.’’

(On how Swift sustained the injury without contact to his left shoulder on the play) ‘’We had that same question.  According to him, it was earlier in the game when he injured it, and he continued to play with it.  And then it just began to hurt more and more after that.  That play was kind of the culmination of that, on that play, where it was bothering him more.  He’s had a banged-up shoulder a lot of the year.  I mean, Brian Herrien has had it. We’ve had a couple of players have similar injury that he has. He’s played with it, dealt with it, and I don’t want to say it’s a common injury, but we have a lot of guys that have had that same injury in football.  He’s been dealing with it well, and it came to a head Saturday.  He had a couple of hits earlier where he did fall on it, and it bothered him.’’

You mentioned the extra juice the players have had in practice.  Do you think your players enjoy the prospect of playing in a game of this magnitude?

‘’Yeah.  I think they’re excited about the opportunity to play in front of this crowd.  I think two years ago, it was the most-watched game in college football.  It’s a lot of passion and energy involved.  Atlanta’s got a great venue.  The Southeastern Conference is second to none when it comes to fan bases and passion.  I know our players are excited.  I am, too.’’

Coach Orgeron has mentioned Tyler Clark specifically as an outstanding player for the Georgia defense.  Can you talk about the kind of season he’s had?

‘’Tyler’s had a good year.  He’s been really active.  I think the way we’ve played defensively, with the havoc and the movement, has helped Tyler.  He’s a good athlete.  That’s given him the ability to make some plays.  Tyler’s a hard-nosed, tough worker.  I mean, the number of snaps he’s played for us for four years is pretty incredible for what he’s been able to do for us, and also to stay relatively healthy.  But Tyler’s done a great job.  He’s one of the first kids we recruited here, and he’s been a great Georgia Bulldog.’’

This will be the fourth time Georgia and LSU have played in the SEC Championship Game.  What are your memories of the 2005 game, when you were on the UGA staff?

‘’Man, I remember stuff after the game.  That’s the first SEC Championship that I was ever a part of, number one.  Number two, to win it was pretty special.  I remember taking pictures afterwards.  I remember Shock (UGA QB D.J. Shockley) played a whale of a game.  It was, like, the pinnacle of my career at that point because I’d never played in an SEC Championship.  I’d never been even close to one.  And to win one, it was pretty special because you don’t know if you’re ever going to get that opportunity when you play and you coach.  And that was a special time.’’

#17 Eli Wolf | Graduate Student | TE

On whether he thinks the other receivers will step up in the first half against LSU, due to the absences of Lawrence Cager and George Pickens/whether the offense will look different than usual…

“I think everyone has to step up a little bit, because [Lawrence] Cager is a great athlete and player. We definitely have to have the receivers step up. Some guys will have to get some reps who don’t usually. Then, if we need to go more 12 personnel, we’ll certainly do that….I think, game-to-game, [the offense] always looks a little bit different. We’ll definitely have to account for some changes [in the offense] a little bit.”

On how special D’Andre Swift is…

“D’Andre is super special, and everybody sees that. For him to get a little bit banged up, I know we’ve got a whole slew of backs who will go in there and run the ball just as hard. We need him back, and I think he’ll be ready, so it will be awesome to block for him some more.”

#89 Charlie Woerner | Senior | TE

On whether there’s a potential for him to get more looks with the absence of select receivers…

“That kind of stuff works itself out during the week at practice with the plays we install. We talk about plays that work and what is going to happen in the game before the game is even played. A lot of that is worked out throughout the week, and when it comes to game time, we know what the plan is. We’ve just got to go out and do what we’ve been doing all week.”

#27 Eric Stokes | Redshirt Sophomore | DB

On what he thinks the matchups in the secondary look like for Georgia against LSU…

“They match up really good. I know they have some really good wide receivers out there. They’ve got two with over 1,000 yards, and they have some people coming back. They call mismatches any and everywhere, so we’ve just got to do our best with matching up with them. We’ve got the talent and everything, so now we’ve got to go out there and do our assigned man. We’ve got to lock in and keep watching film, like we are right now.”

On whether he believes Georgia can cover LSU better than any other team…

“We believe we’re the best people out there. We believe we’re the best DB core, and always we all have to have the confidence that we can go up against anybody, especially as a DB because you’re out there on your own. Without confidence, it’s pretty hard to play.”

#66 | Solomon Kindley | Junior | OL

On his what he sees from the LSU defensive front…

“Matter of fact—LSU they’re No. 1, No. 2 in the nation so you know they have a very good defense because they are ranked that high. They are very big on the inside and their backers in the past years are the ring leaders of the game—so they are very fast. They like to run the outside plays and stuff the middle—good pass rushing overall.”

On what the offensive line is using from last year’s matchup against LSU for this game…

“Yeah, we look back at every game and every point we have played. We look at the game film from last year and have some tips on that type of stuff. We take that game and see what we can work on and what we did wrong and typically teams that beat you at stuff like last year—they try to do it again. We go back to that game and look at the small stuff that was going on last year and try to fix those types of errors and hopefully it will help us out this game.”

On not holding anything back now that they are playing in the SEC Championship…

“To be honest, that process of being like that for us since we lost to South Carolina. Week in and week out if lose a game we knew it was going to be over because of the type of position that Florida was in. Since that time we knew that it was win or go home. That is how our mindset—that is how it has been for five or six weeks straight, so it isn’t a different mindset.”

Bulldogs in the NFL — Week 13

Georgia receiver Javon Wims (6) during the Bulldogs' session on fhe Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

Week 13 Recap

 

    Bears 24, Lions 20

    Roquan Smith, LB: Smith registered a career-high 15 tackles, including two sacks, for the Bears.

    Leonard Floyd, LB: Floyd posted three tackles for Chicago.

    Javon Wims, WR: Wims caught a career-best five passes for 56 yards for the Bears.

    Riley Ridley, WR: The Chicago rookie got in for four offensive snaps and one special teams play, but he did not have any stats.

    Matthew Stafford, QB: Stafford was on the Lions’ inactive list. Stafford stands third in the NFL in total offense at 303.5 yards per game.

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

    Isaac Nauta, TE: The Lions rookie logged seven snaps on offense and 19 on special teams, but he did not have any stats.

 

    Rams 34, Cardinals 7

    Todd Gurley, RB: Gurley had 10 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown and he pulled in a 20-yard reception for the Rams. Gurley stands sixth in the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns and seventh with nine overall touchdowns.

    Natrez Patrick, LB: The Rams rookie was a healthy scratch.

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

 

    Bengals 22, Jets 6

    Geno Atkins, DL: Atkins registered four tackles for the Bengals, who earned their first victory of the season.

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

    Cordy Glenn, OL: Glenn played all 66 snaps at left tackle and helped the Bengals roll up 277 total yards.

    A.J. Green, WR: Green was on the Bengals’ inactive list.

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

    Jordan Jenkins, LB: Jenkins had three tackles for the Jets.

 

    Bills 26, Cowboys 15

    Isaiah McKenzie, WR: McKenzie hauled in three passes for 34 yards for the Bills.

 

    Titans 31, Colts 17

    Ben Jones, OL: Jones played all 60 snaps at center and helped the Titans accumulate 292 total yards.

    D’Andre Walker, LB: Walker is on Tennessee’s injured reserve list.

    Justin Houston, DE: Houston made one tackle for loss and recovered a fumble for the Colts.

 

    Dolphins 37, Eagles 31

    John Jenkins, DL: Jenkins had one tackle for Miami.

    Reshad Jones, DB: Jones is on the Dolphins’ injured reserve list.

    Jonathan Ledbetter, DL: The Miami rookie is on injured reserve.

 

    Chiefs 40, Raiders 9

    Mecole Hardman, WR: Hardman had a 23-yard kickoff return and a 9-yard rush for the Chiefs. Among NFL rookies, Hardman ranks first in punt return average (14.8), second in receiving touchdowns (five), fourth in total touchdowns (five), and seventh in receiving yards (450) and kickoff return average (23.0).

 

    Buccaneers 28, Jaguars 11

    Chris Conley, WR: Conley caught four passes for 57 yards for the Jaguars.

    Abry Jones, DL: Jones made one tackle for Jacksonville.

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

 

    Steelers 20, Browns 13

    Nick Chubb, RB: Chubb rushed 16 times for 58 yards and caught a 21-yard pass for the Browns. Chubb is ranked first in the league with 1,175 yards rushing and eighth with seven rushing touchdowns.

 

    Packers 31, Giants 13

    Alec Ogletree, LB: Ogletree led the Giants with nine tackles, including one for loss.

    Deandre Baker, DB: Baker had four tackles for the Giants.

    Lorenzo Carter, LB: Carter made one tackle for New York.

 

    Broncos 23, Chargers 20

    Thomas Davis, LB: Davis posted six tackles for the Chargers.

 

    Texans 28, Patriots 22

    Sony Michel, RB: Michel carried 10 times for 45 yards for New England.

    Ben Watson, TE: Watson made a 23-yard reception for the Patriots.

    Isaiah Wynn, OL: Wynn played all 79 snaps at left tackle and helped New England accumulate 448 total yards.

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

 

    Redskins 29, Panthers 21

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

    Elijah Holyfield, RB: Holyfield is on the Panthers’ practice squad.

 

    Week 14 Schedule Involving Bulldogs

    (Games are on Sunday unless otherwise noted)

​Cowboys at Bears, Thursday; Panthers at Falcons; Colts at Buccaneers; Dolphins at Jets; Lions at Vikings; Ravens at Bills; Bengals at Browns; Redskins at Packers; Chargers at Jaguars; Steelers at Cardinals; Titans at Raiders; Chiefs at Patriots; Seahawks at Rams; Giants at Eagles, Monday.

 

 

Georgia’s Dan Lanning Named Broyles Award Finalist

Georgia Fain and Billy Slaughter Defensive Coordinator Dan Lanning during a press conference at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia Fain & Billy Slaughter Defensive Coordinator/outside linebackers coach Dan Lanning has been named one of five finalists for the 2019 Broyles Award, which is presented to college football’s assistant coach of the year.

 

Lanning is one of two coaches from the Southeastern Conference on the list, including LSU passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Joe Brady.  The other finalists include: Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow, Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Jeff Hafley and Utah defensive coordinator/safeties coach Morgan Scalley.  Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart won the 2009 honor and was a finalist in 2015 while at Alabama.

 

The five finalists are invited to travel to Little Rock, Ark., on Dec. 10 where the 2019 Broyles Award winner will be announced.

 

In his first year as defensive coordinator and second with the Bulldogs, Lanning has helped Georgia’s defense transform into one of the nation’s best.  The Bulldogs lead the SEC in Scoring Defense at 10.4 points/game (No. 2 nationally), Rushing Defense at 71.0 yards/game (No. 2 nationally) and in Total Defense at 257.0 yards/game (No. 4 nationally).  The Bulldogs have allowed just 125 points in 2019 and only one rushing touchdown.

 

Georgia ranks third nationally in Red Zone Defense.  The Bulldogs are on the verge of setting several all-time UGA marks.  The school record for fewest average points allowed in a season with 12 or more games is 14.5 in 2003.  The fewest points allowed in a season with 12 or more games is 198 in 2004.  The defense has posted 31 scoreless quarters, including shutouts against Arkansas State (55-0), Kentucky (21-0) and Missouri (27-0).

 

The No. 4 Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1 SEC) face No. 2 LSU (12-0, 8-0) in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 4 p.m.

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 LSU. The Bulldogs and Tigers kick off at 4 p.m. ET. 

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

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement … 

“On to the big one. We have an exciting football opportunity to play what I think is one of the best teams in the country, as explosive as a team as I have probably ever watched on tape. I don’t even know what the numbers say. Obviously, the numbers say they’re really good. But I don’t go by that. I go by what I see on tape and they do a tremendous job.

Defensively, we have had them on tape, I know we overlapped on Auburn and Florida. And I think [Defensive Coordinator] Dave Aranda does a tremendous job. They have a very experienced secondary, talented up front, play a lot of players, just a tremendous overall program. And what Coach [Ed] Orgeron has been able to do with his program from the standpoint of winning big games, I mean, playing top-25, top-10 opponents, I think he’s been as good as anybody in the country. And I have a lot of respect for him, always have. I’ve known him for a long time. And his teams take on his personality, which is toughness, physical, and cut it loose.

So this will be as great a challenge as we have had, I know since I’ve been here as far as playing an opponent. And our players have earned this opportunity. We didn’t back our way into this game. We earned our way into this game. And we’re looking forward to the opportunity to play in what is probably one of the greatest stages, I said it over and over, in all of college football.”

On using the underdog role as motivation … 

“No, we really don’t bring that up. What we worry about is what do we have to do to execute well. And I don’t get into who is favored by how many or underdogs. It’s just not important because the people that make those decisions aren’t in this room. They’re not, like, in our meeting rooms, they’re not in our meetings, they don’t go there through our practices. So we try to control what we can control with how we practice and how we get ready. And as many of the games we’re favored in, it doesn’t matter, so if you’re not favored in it probably doesn’t matter either.”

On if he relishes the challenge as a defensive guy going against an explosive offense … 

“I probably did until about yesterday afternoon. I started watching the tape and then you realize that there really aren’t weaknesses. I mean, arguably one of the best backs in the country. I mean, just vicious attack, you spin, you hit, you — in the biggest games Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been one of the biggest players. Joe Burrow speaks for himself. I could go on and on. Wideouts, tight ends, they’ve got five, really, returning starters on their offensive line. They got defensive players. They got an outstanding all around team. It’s a tremendous opportunity to measure where you are as a team when you get an opportunity to play a team like this that is firing on all cylinders. I mean, there’s no such thing as a perfect game. Nobody will ever play it. But what they did last week on A&M was pretty incredible in all three phases.”

On if there is any advantage having experience in this game … 

“Experience is valuable. I think the experiences in the Mercedes Stadium, the routine, you go over there Friday, you walk through, we don’t typically walk through where we play. Well, this is a different deal, so we go over there and walk through where we play and a lot of our kids have done that a couple times now, but we’ve got 20 or so guys that have never done it because they’re freshmen and it will be their first time. So I don’t think that’s a big advantage by any means, but our kids have played in it. Like I said yesterday on the teleconference, their kids have played in a ton of big games. It’s not going to be any different for them or us when you play in the SEC and the stage you play on. Week-in and week-out you’re playing on CBS in front of the largest crowds in the country.”

On defense winning championships and how true that is in today’s college football … 

“You’ve got to play good football to win, period. I don’t know that the adage defense wins championships stands as much as it used to. When you saw scores from the ’60s and the ’70s and the ’80s and you saw scores of games it was indicative of defense, compared to now. Now, it’s like I got to play pretty good defense and I got to score a lot of points. I can’t play horrific defense. I can’t play bad defense, but I might not have to be perfect, is the way a lot of teams have had success. They probably take more chances and risk and they just score tons of points. That’s not, I’m not talking about LSU. I’m just talking about college football. I think LSU plays really good defense and they are explosive on offense. But an explosive offense allows you to play a certain way on defense, too, because you know that you’re going to score a certain amount of points. Sometimes that changes things. But I can’t say, because you could go over the history of the last 10 years, still there’s been some really good defenses that have won national championships. The Alabama ones, the Clemson ones. A lot of them get overshadowed by really good offenses, but there’s been some good defenses winning.”

On if there is a transition period for a quarterback when there is a new coach in the case of Jake Fromm … 

“No, I don’t think so. We really don’t have a new quarterback coach because it’s the same guy that did it last year. Different coordinator. But I don’t think, if anything, they’re probably on, better on the same page because they’re in a second year of being in the room together. So I think that’s a big part of growth and growing up, being able to do things. Biggest difference this year is who is healthy, who is out there playing. I mean, three guys are in the NFL that were out there playing last year and, really, five when you count Holyfield and Nauta. So there’s not been a level of consistency with the perimeter skill that there probably was last year. That’s the biggest difference.”

On the Georgia defense leading the SEC in nearly every category compared to previous defenses he’s coached … 

“It’s a hard comparison. I mean, first of all, our defensive staff, I give tremendous credit to the coaches on our staff. I don’t take credit for that myself just because I’m a defensive guy. I think our coaching staff, [Dan] Lanning, [Glenn] Schumann, Charlton [Warren] and Tray Scott have done a tremendous job. Our players have done a tremendous job of working hard, buying in. Look, we don’t have natural star power on our defense that a lot of the defenses I’ve been a part of that were successful had that. They had three or four first rounders. This group plays really hard and well together. They’re well coached and they’re fundamentally sound. But this, obviously, will be the ultimate test, best offensive unit we have played all the way around, really not even close.”

On if he looks at last year’s Georgia-LSU game in Baton Rouge … 

‘You always watch it. You have it in your breakdowns. You look at things, you look at matchups, you look at guys, playing guys, covering guys, because a lot of the guys are the same and you look at those things. But schematically, they’re different. They hurt us with some things last year. Some of the things they hurt us with last year they still do. Some of them they don’t. They’re just a really different team from an offensive perspective. From a defensive perspective, they’re not exactly the same team, but they’re more similar.”

On where the decision comes from to call a fake punt or a fake field goal in big games…
“I think you just work on things. You are always looking for an advantage. No different than Geoff Collins and them last week with Georgia Tech. You’re saying that if I get an opportunity to steal a possession because I think someone’s unsound or not ready for something, then you try to give your kids a chance to win. I mean, you saw it last week in Auburn and Alabama. I mean, it was not a trick play. It was a maneuver to get an extra possession and they gained an extra possession at the right time and that’s big. So I think anytime you can find some advantage, some ability to do that, it’s important to do it. Just got to be calculated. You have to understand why you’re doing it and you hopefully are going to be successful at it. Otherwise it doesn’t look real good.

On having to give extra motivation to the rest of the receivers with Lawrence Cager out and George Pickens out for the first half…
“No, it’s very similar to last week. As far as, hey, guys, you’re going to get an opportunity to play. Step up and make plays. We had some guys do that. We had some guys catch balls that haven’t caught balls in a long time or very little all year. And they made some good plays. You’re going to get one-on-one opportunities when you play in our offense because of the run game. So you have to win your 50/50 opportunities. You have to take advantage of it. And it will be very similar to last week in regards to not who we’re playing but the guys on the field.”

On what makes LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire so difficult to play against…
“Baller. I mean, he is a football-playing machine. When they cut out a running back and say, this is going to be a running back, this guy is as explosive quickness — he makes the best football tacklers in our conference miss. So when you got football players that are playing against him from Auburn, Florida, Alabama, and he’s making them miss, you get immediate respect with the toughness that he runs with. And I mean, the kid is, he’s got an incredible drive and ability and willingness to break tackles and toughness that I just respect. He plays the game the way it should be played, and they play him an awful lot because he’s really good.”

On getting James Cook the ball and utilizing him more…
“He has been utilized quite a bit. When he’s been healthy, he’s been out there a good bit. Some of them are what we call PRO’s, which I talked about before. So they’re controlled by what the defense gives us, not by touches necessarily for him. In the last couple weeks we have given him a few more carries. It boils down to us, really, saying, all right, who are the best football players to give us the best opportunity to win. And he’s at a position where it’s more shared. To be a wideout and go out there and play wideout, that’s not a natural position for him. So the things he’s able to do, the things he’s really strong at, are best around the back field. We happen to have other strong guys in those areas. So we’re trying to find ways to get him the ball.”

On if the rotation and use of Ben Cleveland, Solomon Kindley, Cade Mays and Jameree Salyer is based on rhythm or matchups…

“No, it’s a practice thing. It’s who practices the best, who gives us the best chance to win, who is playing the best within the game, who is prepared, who is doing the best job of communication based on fronts, and who is pass pro-ing. So, basically, whoever is playing better, we try to play.”

On what LSU’s offensive line provides in pass protection and run blocking…

“Great experience. Look across the board, all five of them have played a ton of games, they communicate really well, they have got a great system to help those guys out, whether it’s chipping in protection to protect them on one-on-ones. They got a really good complimentary run game, they do a tremendous job of making decisions at the line, they’re in the right play very often because people can’t play them in hard boxes because of their wideouts, so it allows them to be really, really successful at checking run, checking pass off of looks and making things look the same and being able to do different things off of them. And their offensive line is the key to that because they’re the ones that protect the quarterback.”

On Jake Fromm’s comfort level with Dominick Blaylock… 

“I think that’s been the case with each of the wideouts. (Jake) has had so many different guys in the lineup that he’s familiar with them, he’s comfortable with them, I think he likes Dom, because Dom is a guy that is constantly working, he’s where he’s supposed to be, he runs the right route, he runs it the right depth. Jake has a trust with all those guys but he and Dom have grown for sure.”

On the confidence level with the depth of the running backs… 

“Very confident. Zamir (White) had some good games and gotten to play more and more, we’re trying to find ways to use him. James (Cook) the same way, and Kenny (McIntosh) got to go in the game and did some good things the other day, so I feel very comfortable about the other guys. Obviously (D’Andre) Swift has a different skill set probably as a total package than all of them, and we want him to be in there, but we have got some depth at that position that we can use guys.”

On the fan support and Georgia fans traveling to away games…

“Yeah, I think it helps. Our guys love any environment. A lot of players will probably tell you they like a hostile environment more than they like a home environment because they like to go in and get in front of the other team’s fans and play well and be motivated by that. I certainly like the fact that you can go on the road and in certain locales and take over a stadium. It says a lot about your fan base and the passion they have for the game. But we know in the SEC that’s tough, because you’re going to find very few places you can do that.”

On the importance older players mentoring the younger players on the team…  

“Well it’s important to have a big brother. I mean, we all have mentors and you grow. A young player, I mean, young players across the country, you have to grow up. And when you have an older player, that’s able to help you with that, I think it’s always a benefit and we’re always trying to get our guys to help out the younger players in every facet.”

#77 Cade Mays | Sophomore | OL

On the challenges LSU’s defense presents for Georgia…

“They’re a well-rounded defense. They’ve got a great front seven, a good back and good secondary. They’re very deep on the D-line and linebackers.”

On whether the fact that Georgia has gone to the SEC Championship before helps going into this year’s…

“It definitely helps our whole team. We’ve been in big games before, so it’s important we know not to let the moment be bigger than it is and live in the moment. The stadium is packed, and it’s one of the biggest games of the year. Everyone is hype.”

On how Jake Fromm has handled criticism this season…

“He’s definitely handled it well. He knows himself, and he’s true to himself. He comes out and works hard every single day, and he doesn’t let anything affect him. He’s focused on what he’s supposed to do.”

#87 Tyler Simmons | Senior | WR 

On what George Pickens can provide in the second half …

“I feel like it definitely can. I know, personally, Jake is very close to George and they have great timing. It can definitely give us some spark in the second half if it does come down to a close game.” 

On if you take responsibility to step up being the older guy…

“Yeah, like you said, I am the oldest guy in the room. I have the most experience. It is up to me to put myself on that higher pedestal and try and bring those young guys with me.”

#13 Azeez Ojulari | Redshirt-Freshman | OLB 

On what makes LSU different than previous teams…

“All of the weapons they have on offense is critical. They have their quarterback, a Heisman candidate, their receivers, great backs. They have talent all-around the offense.” 

On how Richard LeCounte’s energy helps the defense… 

“He brings it every day, every practice, every week. He brings that energy and he is a leader on the defense. He impacts other players because when he is going hard it makes other players go hard. He is doing it for the team, for the school, for his family. He brings that energy and leads the secondary and everyone follows along.” 

#94 Michael Barnett | Senior | DT

On how he would describe LSU’s offense…

“I feel like their offense is well rounded. They pass the ball really well, their receivers know where to be, their quarterback knows where they’re going to be. Timing is really well. Their running game is good. Their running back number 22 [Clyde Edwards-Helaire] is really good. Their offensive line is pretty solid up front.”

 

On Joe Burrow…

“He’s ready. He’s league ready. He knows where he wants to go with the ball. He knows the scheme, where the coaches what they want to do as far as what they want to do with the players and what not. He knows his wide outs and where they’re going to be. The timing is well. He’s a really good quarterback.”

 

On what it will take defensively to slow down LSU…

“Going into a game like this is really about honing in on your fundamentals. If you focus on the little things, the big things will come. As a defensive line, we’re supposed to know what we’re doing upfront. Linebackers making the right calls and safeties making the right adjustments. If we’re all in the right place, good things will come.”

Georgia’s strong second half caps off 52-7 win over Georgia Tech

by DAN MATHEWS

The end result of the 52-7 win for Georgia over Georgia Tech was much better than the game started.

The Bulldogs went to the half up just 17-7 over their rival Yellow Jackets. They had turned the football over twice and also seen a rare Rodrigo Blankenship missed field goal.

Quarterback Jake Fromm started the game by missing on his first four throws. He would finish up the afternoon in Atlanta by tying his career-high in touchdown passes with four.

Fromm improved his overall afternoon of passing, despite the slow start. This was his best performance in terms of yards (254), since he threw for 279 against Florida.

Georgia was without wide receiver George Pickens for the first half of the game, due to a violation of team rules, according to head coach Kirby Smart. He would then be ejected in the second half for fighting with Yellow Jackets cornerback Tre Swilling.

In his short time on the field, Pickens was able to score on a 41 yard touchdown pass from Fromm. He also drew a defensive pass interference and holding penalty on intended passes.

Smart confirmed after the game, that Pickens would be out of the first half of the SEC Championship Game next week. This goes along with the news that graduate transfer Lawrence Cager is indeed going to miss the SEC title game and likely a bowl game.

Cager’s absence has been noticeable in the performance of Jake Fromm. In the last three UGA games, Fromm has completed less than 50 percent of his throws.

The good news for Georgia, is that senior receiver Tyler Simmons was able to pull in some key catches on the afternoon. He ended the game as the team leader in catches, with three and one touchdown.

Georgia also lost junior running back D’Andre Swift to a left shoulder contusion in the second half of this game. Smart said in his postgame press conference that he did not believe that Swift’s injury was serious.

Defensively on the afternoon, Georgia only gave up that one touchdown to the Jackets. It came following a muffed punt return by freshman Dominick Blaylock. The conclusion was a six yard touchdown pass from James Graham to tight end Tyler Davis.

Dan Lanning’s group finished the game with six tackles for a loss. They also broke up seven passes.

Now, the attention turns to one of the most electrifying offensive groups in the country in LSU. The Tigers will enter the SEC Championship Game behind the likely Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Joe Burrow.

This highly productive UGA defense will have it’s hands full in trying to defend wide receivers Justin Jefferson, JaMarr Chase and Terrace Marshall. The offense can also run through tight end Thaddeus Moss and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.