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Simply, Disappointing: Dogs Upset in Overtime

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

C_Paul-Johnson2ATHENS—What appeared to be one of the greatest moments ever for Georgia against rival Georgia Tech, quickly turned into a disappointing, heart-breaking loss for the 8th-ranked Bulldogs, ending yet another disappointing regular season for head coach Mark Richt.Georgia (9-3) seemingly scored the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard, fourth-down reception by Malcolm Mitchell from Hutson Mason, giving the Bulldogs a 24-21 lead over the 16th-ranked Yellow Jackets with just 18 seconds remaining in regulation. However, Georgia then inexplicably elected to squib the ensuing kickoff after performing well on kickoff coverage the entire game. After a 16-yard return of the short kickoff, Georgia Tech (10-2) possessed the ball at its own 43-yard line with 13 seconds left.”I’m disappointed in my decision to squib kick,” Richt said following what eventually ended in a 30-24 win by Georgia Tech in overtime. “That was a poor decision on my part. That was no one’s decision but mine.”After a 21-yard scramble out of bounds to the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line by Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, placekicker Harrison Butker made a 53-yard field goal with no time remaining to tie the game, 24-24.

In overtime, the Yellow Jackets’ offense executed exactly what it had done for most of the game: run the ball right down Georgia’s throat. Georgia Tech covered 25 yards in five rushes, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run up the middle by Zach Laskey. For the game, Laskey rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries.

After Butker’s PAT attempt was blocked by Ray Drew—the Georgia defensive lineman’s second blocked placekick of the game—it was the Bulldog offense’s turn in overtime, needing a touchdown and successful PAT to reclaim a victory which had been snatched from them only moments before.

Georgia moved to Tech’s 9-yard line in four plays; however, facing second down, Mason threw into coverage and his pass was corralled by cornerback D.J. White. The game-winning interception gave the Yellow Jackets, who entered the game as 10.5-point underdogs, an upset, 30-24 win.

“It was a slant route and the guy jumped it,” Richt said of White’s interception. “[White] did a good job of undercutting it.”

For Richt, the loss was only his second setback to Georgia Tech in 14 games as Georgia’s head coach. For Mason, his errant throw was the final pass attempt in Sanford Stadium for the fifth-year senior, who completed 18 of 28 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort.

To begin the game, Mason and the offense took the opening kickoff and made things look easy, zipping down the field in 10 plays for 75 yards in just over four minutes. Nick Chubb’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead. Chubb would finish with 129 yards on 25 carries.

On the Yellow Jackets first three offensive possessions of the game, they punted twice and had a field goal blocked by Drew. However, following their touchdown, the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize on opportunities–first, Chubb lost a fumble on Tech’s 3-yard line, and then Michel fumbled into the Tech end zone for a touchback.

What perhaps could have been a 21-0 lead for Georgia late in the second quarter, was instead merely a 7-0 advantage.

Early in the week, Richt was adamant that his team was “very focused on this game.” But, any “focus” on Georgia Tech was seemingly not evident for most of this afternoon, making one wonder if the squad was more focused on yesterday when a win by Missouri over Arkansas knocked Georgia out of the SEC Championship Game.

From late in the first quarter through late in the fourth, five of Georgia Tech’s six offensive drives went for at least 60 yards while lasting for at least eight plays. A month after allowing Florida to rush for 418 yards, Georgia yielded a staggering 399 to the Yellow Jackets on 70 rushes. Tech also had a time of possession of over 36 minutes for the game.

“There aren’t a whole lot of offenses that effect you as an offense also, but [Georgia Tech]’s does,” Mason said. “They don’t give you too many possessions and you look up and half the quarter is gone. Against something like that you have to take advantage of opportunities and turn them into touchdowns instead of field goals.”

Midway through the third quarter with the score tied 7-7, Georgia finally caught a break when cornerback Damian Swann forced Thomas to fumble on the Bulldogs’ 1-yard line. Swann then picked up the loose ball and raced 99 yards for a touchdown. Still, Georgia squandered opportunities by later having a field goal blocked and following a run on a fake field goal gave the Bulldogs’ a first-and-goal at Tech’s 3-yard line, having to settle for a short field goal.

Georgia Tech took its first lead with 4:22 left in regulation when a touchdown run by Laskey put the Jackets up, 21-17. After the Bulldogs misplayed the ensuing kickoff, giving Georgia Tech the ball at the Bulldogs’ 27-yard line, the Yellow Jackets lost a fumble five plays later.

From his own 31-yard line, Mason drove Georgia 69 yards in 12 plays for the apparent game-winning touchdown, but any victory celebration by the Bulldogs would be very short-lived.

“We didn’t capitalize,” Swann said following the game. “We had opportunities but we didn’t capitalize on them. We don’t lose to them. We aren’t supposed to lose to them, so it hurts.”

Finishing with a 9-3 regular-season record, Georgia wasn’t “supposed to lose” to any of the three teams which defeated the Bulldogs—South Carolina, Florida, and now Georgia Tech—all of which were substantial underdogs to the Bulldogs by a touchdown or more. And, for the third time this season, the inconsistent Bulldogs didn’t fully capitalize on opportunities, costing them a memorable victory over their intrastate rival, while ending their regular season in disappointment.

There’s Little “Clean” About This “Old-Fashioned Hate”

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

“Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” (although many will say the hate is far from clean) will ensue Saturday in Athens between intrastate rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech. The teams enter with identical records both overall and in their respective conferences (9-2, 6-2); however, the 16th-ranked Yellow Jackets have already clinched a spot in the ACC title game, whereas the 8th-ranked Bulldogs must wait until Friday to know if they’ll be playing in the SEC Championship or not.Coach Mark Richt is a spectacular 12-1 against Tech, losing only in 2008 when his Bulldogs were upset as more than a touchdown favorite in Athens. This season’s meeting will match the highest combined AP Poll rankings in the rivalry in nearly 50 years (1966: No. 5 GA Tech vs. No. 7 Georgia). Still, there has been some question whether the Bulldogs (currently, a 12.5-point favorite) will be fully focused Saturday, considering they’ll already know if there is a game to be played the following week or not.”I think around here, just the fact that Coach Richt has lost to [Georgia Tech] before and knowing what that means and what that feels like, I don’t think [the coaches] allow [a lack of passion] to happen,” said receiver Chris Conley, who will be one of 27 seniors making their last appearance in Sanford Stadium. “I think the team learns how to get up for this game.”When the Dawgs Have the Ball: Last season, Georgia’s offense was relatively stagnant early on at Georgia Tech; the team trailed 20-0 late in the second quarter before finally coming alive to win in overtime, 41-34. But this year, the Bulldogs should have little trouble moving the ball, and move the ball from the very beginning.

“I think [the Georgia Tech defense] did a good job against us last year,” senior center David Andrews said. “We struggled at times last year. We’ve just got to go out this year and earn the right to win and come out there and have a physical game.”

Andrews and his big, physical fellow linemen pave the way for arguably the best running attack in UGA football history. Led by tailback Nick Chubb, who is seeking his seventh consecutive 100-yard rushing performance, Georgia’s ground game will face a Yellow Jacket run defense which allowed Wofford, Georgia Southern, and Duke to each rush for more than 240 yards. What’s more, Georgia Tech is yielding a lofty 5.09 yards per rush; only two FBS teams currently with winning records—South Carolina and Rutgers, both with mere 6-5 marks—are yielding more per carry.

Although the Bulldogs rarely turn the football over, committing just eight turnovers this season—second-fewest in the FBS—they have to be extra careful to hold onto the ball against the Jackets. Remarkably, Georgia Tech has scored six touchdowns this season on interception and fumble returns, while averaging 10.5 points per game off turnovers.

When the Jackets Have the Ball: Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense has produced similar results in 2014 as previous seasons under Coach Paul Johnson: many points, a lot of rushing yards, and many backs involved in its success. Currently, nine different Jackets have carried the ball at least 15 times this season for more than 100 yards. Their leading rusher, quarterback Justin Thomas (827 yds), is perhaps slightly different than Tech’s previous triple-option signal callers as he actually is an accurate and dangerous passer. Thomas would rank 6th in the FBS in passing efficiency (161.22) if he averaged just 1.8 more pass attempts per contest (need 15.0 to be eligible; Thomas averages 13.2).

Georgia’s defensive coaches and most of their defenders will confront an offense like they’ve never seen before from the Yellow Jackets.

“[Defensive Coordinator] Jeremy [Pruitt] has had experience, and I think all of our coaches have had some experience defending this type of offense, but going head to head with Georgia Tech, I don’t believe they did…” Richt said. “So you know, it’ll be the first shot out of the cannon, so to speak, for this staff to go against that offense here at Georgia Tech.”

For what it’s worth, although Georgia Tech has lost five consecutive to Georgia, the Yellow Jacket offense has averaged a staggering 286 rushing yards per game against the Bulldogs during the losing streak. Nonetheless, this season’s Georgia defense is considered not only improved from previous editions, but steadily improving as the season has progressed.

“I think our confidence has always been there,” said nose tackle Mike Thornton when asked about the defense’s improvement. “I don’t think we’ve ever shied away from anything, any team. … But every week we have to come out and play our hardest game.”

Although Georgia’s defense is acknowledged for its steady improvement, the Bulldogs have allowed averages of 243 rushing yards per contest and 5.2 yards per rush their last four games after having what was considered one of the best run defenses in the SEC.

Special Teams: For the season, 35 percent of Marshall Morgan’s kickoffs have been touchbacks, which is slightly below the conference average of 39 percent. But, against Georgia Tech, the Georgia placekicker might have to be better than average.

The Yellow Jackets rank 19th in the FBS in kickoff return average (23.7); top returner Jamal Gordon is 14th in the nation, averaging nearly 27 yards per kickoff return. The Bulldogs can ill-afford to allow extra yardage on returns to a team whose offense will already presumably be able to move the ball.

DawgTime Tidbits:
* During the first 13 seasons of the Coach Richt era (2001-2013), the Georgia offense ran the ball 51% of the time, 49% passing (sacks considered pass attempts). This season, the Bulldogs run 60% of the time, only 40% passing.

* Georgia Tech is within reach of breaking the FBS single-season record for yards per pass completion: 19.1 by Houston in 1968 (min. 100 completions). Currently, the Jackets are averaging 18.3 yards per catch (85 completions entering game).

* If the Bulldogs score 20+ points against Georgia Tech, it’ll mark back-to-back campaigns in which Georgia scored at least 20 points in every regular-season game after having never accomplished as much in any regular season prior to 2013.

DawgTime Prediction: On Tuesday, Richt offered his opinion on “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”: “I have done my best to explain, you know, kind of how this game goes, and the emotion of the game and how relentless Georgia Tech is in how they go about their business, and it’s kind of—it’s a game where you’ve gotta be—you’ve gotta be tough to play in this game.”

The Jackets might be “relentless,” and, as mentioned, they have been able to rush for an average of nearly 300 yards against the Bulldogs even when losing the annual affair since 2008. However, during the losing streak, they have averaged an un-Tech-like 23.8 points per game.

Like seemingly always, the Yellow Jackets should be able to move the ball, and may keep the game close for a while; however, simply put, Georgia is tough —tougher and more physical than Tech. Plus, no matter the outcome of the Arkansas-Missouri game, you can count on the Bulldogs being focused on the Jackets—perhaps, more focused and having more hate than for any other opponent this season. Richt improves to 13-1 against Tech, 37 to 20.

Dawgs Talk Some Turkey; Mostly Talk Tech

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—With two days until Thanksgiving, and three days until Georgia finds out if it will be playing in the SEC Championship or not (depending on the outcome of the Arkansas-Missouri game being played Friday afternoon), Coach Mark Richt and his players had little on their minds besides what they’ll encounter four days from now: rival Georgia Tech.

Richt began his weekly press conference this afternoon by first asking the Bulldog Nation to observe Saturday’s Senior Day (by arriving to the game “about 20 minutes” prior to kickoff) while taking part in his requested “Red Out.” “If you’re looking for a theme, let’s go red, and let’s get there on time,” the head coach declared.

As far as the upcoming holiday, the Bulldogs will have time for festivities, but for only a short time; practices are scheduled for both Thursday and Friday mornings.

“It’s different depending on where you live,” center David Andrews replied when asked where the players will spend Thanksgiving. “My parents live only about an hour and 20 minutes away—if that. So, we’ll get done with Thursday’s practice, and several teammates will go home with me; we’ll get home around 1:00 p.m. We’ll eat around 2 o’clock, hang out for a few hours, and then head back to Athens around 6 or 7:00 that night.”

Whether going home, celebrating at a teammate’s house, or even at the homes of certain coaches for the holiday, “everybody has a place to go [for Thanksgiving],” Andrews added.

Concerning the following day, Richt was asked what his team would be doing from 2:30 to 6:00, which happens to be the approximate time frame for when Arkansas will play at Missouri. Without even hinting at the game, Richt was unsure of his team’s exact agenda but mentioned unit meetings, walk-throughs, meals, and a bus ride to their hotel—all likely taking place during the three-and-a-half-hour window. The Bulldog head coach then concluded rather firmly, “But I can tell you this, we’re very focused on this game [with Georgia Tech]. That’s really the only thing we can control and it’s the only thing that is worth talking about right now.”

A win by Arkansas in Columbia, Mo., would clinch the SEC East division for Georgia, and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game. A win by Missouri would mean Georgia Tech is the last game for the Bulldogs prior to any bowl appearance. Nevertheless, the significant, deciding game on Friday is seemingly not even on the minds of most players, especially one in particular.

“I think a lot of [players] say that,” started receiver Chris Conley regarding his teammates apparently having little interest in the Arkansas-Missouri game, “but actually I’m the one who doesn’t [have interest]. I didn’t watch the Tennessee game last week (which could have clinched the SEC East for Georgia, as well). … I don’t want to say that I don’t care, but I care more about what we do. … I’m one of the people who probably won’t watch it; I’ll probably sleep [through the game].”

One of Georgia’s seniors playing his final game in Sanford Stadium is standout cornerback Damian Swann. With the Bulldogs riding a five-game winning streak over Tech, Swann has never experienced a loss to the Yellow Jackets, but realizes Saturday is a whole new ballgame against Georgia’s intrastate rival.

“Regardless of what we’ve done in the past, on [Saturday], we have to get a stop for us to get another win,” Swann said.

Stopping Tech’s vaunted triple-option offense won’t be easy. And, for this season, the Jackets’ offense appears to have discovered a new wrinkle in the form of a legitimate passing game. Sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas not only leads the squad in rushing (827 yards), but his 161.22 passer rating this season currently ranks second all time at Georgia Tech. “He’s a winner. He’s got ‘it,’” boasted Richt regarding Thomas.

On Saturday, Georgia will attempt to limit “it” from Thomas, while becoming the “winner” in this rivalry for the sixth consecutive season, and the 13th time in 14 tries during the Richt regime.

Dawgs Prep for Tech by Bashing Bucs, 55-9

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—Georgia entered today hoping for an easy victory this afternoon over FCS foe Charleston Southern (yet experience a tune-up for the Georgia Tech game next week), and a Tennessee win tonight over Missouri, which would clinch the SEC East title for the 9th-ranked Bulldogs.

Resulting in a resounding 55-9 victory over the Buccaneers (8-4), Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) has accomplished at least one of its two desires for the day.

“We talked all week about respecting this opponent and you show that respect by giving them your best shot,” Coach Mark Richt stated after Georgia improved to 16-0 all time versus Division I-AA/FCS opponents. “We did just that. … We had great execution offensively and our defense didn’t give them much hope all day long.”

The CSU offense may have lost hope on the game’s initial possession, when the Bucs fumbled on their third play, giving the Bulldogs the ball on their 35-yard line. It took Georgia just one play to score—Hutson Mason finding Chris Conley for a quick-strike touchdown—and the Bulldogs had a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the ballgame.

After a CSU punt, it took Georgia just two plays to score again when freshman Nick Chubb sprinted 83 yards for a touchdown—the third-longest rushing touchdown by a Bulldog in Sanford Stadium history. Chubb would finish the game with just nine carries, but for 113 yards—his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance—and two touchdowns.

With just over five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Mason passed to junior receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for a 19-yard touchdown, and the Bulldogs had built a 21-0 advantage. For Scott-Wesley, it was his first reception in nearly 13 months when he departed the Tennessee game a year ago with an injury as the 2013 team’s leading receiver through five games. This afternoon, he would also add a 14-yard reception in the fourth quarter.

Following a 53-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan, Chubb scored his second touchdown on an 8-yard run, and the Bulldogs led, 31-0.

Less than five minutes later, Morgan’s try at a 49-yard field goal was a rare miss. However, two plays later, CSU quarterback Austin Brown’s pass was tipped and intercepted by safety Quincy Mauger, who returned the errant pass 13 yards to the Buccaneer 23-yard line. It was Mauger’s fourth interception this season—a team high.

“I was just reading my keys and knowing where to be,” Mauger said regarding his interception. “Doing my assignments properly has just put me in the right position to make these kinds of plays.”

On the very next snap following the turnover, Mason passed to Conley, who made a remarkable, back-of-the-end-zone catch for 23 yards and a touchdown. Mason was near-flawless for the contest, completing all but two of 12 pass attempts for 187 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, the fifth-year senior has now thrown just three interceptions in 234 attempts, or a 1.28 interception percentage—currently, the lowest single-season mark in school history.

Following a 38-3 lead at intermission, the second half was Georgia’s time to empty its bench.

“We had some young men who had never stepped on the field before in the game,” Richt said following the victory. “To get in and play for the Bulldogs and to play between the hedges was a big thrill for these guys. I’m glad they got this opportunity.”

Early in the third quarter, backup quarterback Brice Ramsey passed to Jonathon Rumph for a 12-yard touchdown. Rumph, who finished with 5 receptions for 67 yards, led Georgia in receiving for the second time in three games after not seeing the field at all the first eight games of the season. Ramsey completed 8 of 12 passes for 92 yards, but was intercepted on one occasion.

Late in the third quarter, fullback Quayvon Hicks streaked for a 33-yard touchdown, giving Georgia a 55-3 lead. For the junior Hicks, it was just his 19th career carry; however, he has gained a staggering 157 yards for an 8.3 yards-per-carry average.

In the second half, CSU’s offense began to show some life with a solid running game. After gaining just 35 total yards in 24 plays in their first seven offensive possessions, the Buccaneers gained 186 yards in 39 plays in its final six drives.

With 9:55 left in the game, CSU tallied what would be the final points of the contest on a 2-yard touchdown run by Christian Reyes, who led the Bucs with 75 rushing yards on 19 carries. Following the touchdown, CSU’s try for two points was no good. Therefore, in allowing just nine points today, and seven points last week against Auburn, Georgia yielded less than 10 points to back-to-back opponents for the first time since September 2006.

“I feel like some of the things [Charleston Southern] did gives us a good idea of what to expect from [Georgia] Tech,” said linebacker Jordan Jenkins who, along with his fellow Bulldog defenders, must face Tech’s vaunted triple-option offense next week. “This has definitely been a good learning experience for all of the guys on defense in terms of getting hit and blocked like that.”

But, before their regular-season finale against Georgia Tech, who clinched a spot in the ACC title game with a Duke loss on Thursday, the Bulldogs will be glued to the television tonight, rooting for Tennessee and hoping their second desire of the day is fulfilled.

Will the Bucs Really Be a Breather for the Bulldogs?

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

Following Georgia’s (8-2, 6-2 SEC) 34-to-7 thumping of Auburn at Sanford Stadium last Saturday, the 9th-ranked Bulldogs remain at home for seemingly a breather against Charleston Southern (8-3, 3-2 Big South) of the FCS. Coach Mark Richt stressed at Tuesday’s press conference that the Bulldogs could not, and would not, look past CSU; the Buccaneers nearly defeated Vanderbilt earlier this season. Nevertheless, Saturday afternoon should be a good opportunity for many Dogs to see playing time, while likely benefiting with a tune up before the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech.

Sadly, Georgia fans have probably seen the last of superstar Todd Gurley, who tore his ACL against Auburn and seems most likely to jump to the NFL before his senior campaign of 2015. Regardless, depending on the results of SEC East-leading Missouri’s final two games, the Bulldog Nation could still have a lot to look forward to, like a trip to the SEC Championship and possibly beyond.

When the Dawgs Have the Ball: While Georgia’s running game has garnered all the attention in 2014, quarterback Hutson Mason has been assembling a fine season. Through 10 games, the fifth-year senior has thrown 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions; his 150.6 passer rating ranks 17th in the nation, while 67.6 completion percentage is tops in the SEC.

Hopefully, Mason and his fellow starters won’t have to play much past halftime against CSU, when they can relax and look forward to the Tennessee-Missouri game that night. A win by the Volunteers, who are currently a slight favorite over the Tigers, would clinch the SEC East for the Bulldogs.

“It’ll be nice to sit down and watch the [Tennessee-Missouri] game,” Mason said when asked about his post-game plans. “Tennessee is fun to watch…I think it’ll be a really good match up and [Knoxville] is a tough place to play at night.”

As far as Mason’s roommate—receiver Michael Bennett—there’s no doubting where his allegiance lies: “I may paint a ‘T’ somewhere and run through it. Me and Hutson will definitely be cheering [Tennessee] on.”

Prior to rooting on the Volunteers, Georgia must encounter a CSU defense which ranks first in the Big South Conference in total defense (302.5 yards) and first in rushing defense (128.8 yards). Notably, the Buccaneers held Vanderbilt to 21 points and 295 total yards.

When the Bucs Have the Ball: As good as CSU has demonstrated stopping the run is the Bucs’ ability to do the running. Averaging more than 230 rushing yards per game and five yards per carry, they feature three backs who have each gained between 425 and 875 yards on the season. This excludes quarterback Austin Brown who, besides passing for 1,833 yards and 11 touchdowns, has rushed for 249 yards and five scores.

Still, CSU’s ground game must face a Georgia defensive unit which recently held one of the nation’s best rushing offenses in Auburn in check.

“We went out there [against Auburn] and did what other teams were not able to do and what we haven’t done all year against the run,” linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “It was great. Everybody did their job and everybody was in the right spot and didn’t try to do other people’s jobs.”

Currently, the Bulldogs are holding opponents to a respectable low of 4.9 yards per offensive play. Entering this season, only one of Georgia’s previous six defensive units (2008-2013) held its opposition to an average of less than five yards per play.

“It’s hard to explain [in evaluating this season’s defense],” defensive end Sterling Bailey stated. “This defense is just something different. The coaching staff that we brought in, they believe in us. It’s starting to show.”

Special Teams: Something else for Georgia that is “just different” this year than before are the Bulldogs’ vastly improved return units. Last season, Georgia averaged a lowly 2.9 yards per punt return, surpassing the previous all-time program low of 3.8 established in 1957, and just 18.6 yards per kickoff return. On the contrary, the Bulldogs are averaging 12.1 yards per punt return and 23.8 yards per kickoff return this season, ranking 20th and 21st, respectively, out of 125 FBS teams.

Georgia’s foremost returner is true freshman Isaiah McKenzie, who is averaging 14 yards per punt return and 30 yards per kickoff return, and has scored three touchdowns off returns.

DawgTime Tidbits:
* Since NCAA Division I football reclassified to Divisions “I-A” and “I-AA” in 1978, Georgia has a 15-0 record against I-AA/FCS opponents, averaging a 45-to-11 final score.

* Hutson Mason’s interception percentage of 1.35% this season (3 INT in 222 attempts) is currently second-best in UGA single-season history, barely trailing David Greene’s 1.33% in 2004 (4 INT in 299 attempts).

* During the Coach Richt era (2001 to present), Georgia has entered 11 games favored by 35 or more points, including versus Troy this season; although the Bulldogs won all 11 games rather easily, just three times did they cover the point spread (including against Troy).

DawgTime Prediction: A couple of days ago, Coach Richt claimed, “[CSU is] physical. They’re well coached. … You can see on film when a team is believing and these guys are believing. They’re going to be a great opponent for us this weekend.”

“Great opponent”? Yes, perhaps, but not for long on Saturday against a big-time FBS program. The Buccaneers might contend at first, but Georgia wins—and wins big—in the end, 45 to 10. Several hours later, while the Dawgs cheer them on, the Tennessee Volunteers defeat the Missouri Tigers by 10 points, sending the Bulldogs to the Georgia Dome in early December for the third time in the last four seasons.

Richt Says Team’s “Tail Ready For A War” Against CSU & Black Jerseys In Squad’s Future

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—Fresh off an impressive 34-7 victory over rival Auburn and with a meeting looming against FCS-opponent Charleston Southern this Saturday, head coach Mark Richt faced the media this afternoon in a cheerful mood. The Georgia head coach even appeared upbeat when asked about his team without—again—Todd Gurley, whose Bulldog career most likely came to a complete end after suffering a torn ACL against the Tigers.

“We basically know who’s healthy or not healthy, or who’s eligible to play or who’s not eligible to play,” Richt began regarding how his offense copes in Gurley’s absence, “and we get those guys ready to play. We keep marching on.”

Richt interestingly indicated today that if he was beginning his coaching career again as an assistant, he’d want to coach offensive linemen. The head Bulldog had high praise for those upfront who had blocked for Gurley and his fellow backs in 2014—the unsung offensive line unit, which although often unrecognized individually, has been outstanding thus far this season.

“If we just keep doing our job the way we’ve been doing it right now, people can talk about [Aaron] Chubb, [Brendan] Douglas, and Sony [Michel] all day long—give them all the credit,” junior offensive guard Greg Pyke added when asked about offensive linemen generally going unnoticed. “We know we’re doing a good job upfront.”

In regards to the “blackout” Saturday night at Sanford Stadium, where at least 90 percent of the Bulldog crowd was donned in black, Richt was asked with at least three games remaining this year—maybe as many as five—if his players might join in and wear black jerseys before the season ended.

“No,” the head coach replied conclusively. “Maybe next year.”

Richt stated that his “goal” would be to have one game—a “planned event” and not a surprise unveiling—during the 2015 season when the Bulldogs would wear black jerseys. “We are Georgia. We are the red and black. It would be pretty natural for us [to wear black jerseys for one game],” he said.

The Bulldogs were also asked if facing Charleston Southern—a Division III program as recently as the 1990s and a team which endured a 15-game losing streak ending just two seasons ago—was a time to completely rest standout players, and a situation where it might be difficult to carry over the intensity from the Auburn game.

“It is a little bit difficult [to carry over the intensity], but it’s just another time to compete,” receiver Michael Bennett said. “We’re competitors and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Charleston Southern has a good team. They’re 8-and-3 and they’re a hard, physical team.”

Since halting their 15-game losing streak in 2012, the Buccaneers have a 23-9 record, including 8-3 this season which includes a narrow 21-20 loss to Vanderbilt in early October.

“I’ve said this before and I mean it, it’s hard to beat teams that are used to winning,” Richt declared. “You can’t [completely rest standout players]. That’s why people get beat. They start thinking something different other than get your tail ready for a war.”

MRI on Todd Gurley confirms torn ACL

ATHENS———– An MRI performed Sunday on University of Georgia junior tailback Todd Gurley confirmed a torn ACL.

The injury occurred in the fourth quarter of Saturday¹s victory
over Auburn. A surgery date has not yet been determined according to UGA Director of Sports Medicine Ron Courson

Georgia Post-Game Quotes Georgia vs. Auburn

Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt

“Overall thoughts on the win…
“It was a great night. The fans were spectacular, the students were ready, the Dog Walk was everything we hoped for, the band was great, and it took everybody to have this kind of performance. We were hoping we could be energized by our fans and that we could energize our fans by our play, and that’s what happened. The crowd was primed for a great night. There’s just something electric about a home game under the lights in November. We made memories together. That’s about as much fun as I’ve had as coach at Georgia, and it’s because of our fans and the players involved.”

On Auburn’s first drive and the rest of its drives…
“On the first drive, they converted some third downs and we could not get off the field. It’s so hard to stop them when it’s third-and-3 or less. After that, we did a little bit better job on first down and some penalties got them in trouble and behind the yardage. On third-and-long, we could pin our ears back and get after them a little bit.”

On Georgia’s first possession of the game…
“We knew it was a long game and sometimes it doesn’t always go the way you want. We had the penalties on the kickoff return and the fake punt and you hate to have those calls. But the players knew we as a staff were going to be aggressive and they fed off that.”

On deciding not to kick a field goal and scoring a touchdown…
“I was really indecisive about what to do. I was going to kick it, but the play clock was winding down and we were about to get a delay, so I called the timeout. I asked Coach (Mike) Bobo if we went for it what play he liked. He explained the play and had faith in it, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It turned out to be big for us. The guys loved it; they all wanted to go for it. If it doesn’t work, it’s a bad thing. But it was a good play and it was executed very well. We hammered it in and it showed we were serious about winning this game tonight.”

On Georgia’s running game…
“We feel like we can run the ball well. We have a great line and backs who are big, physical beasts. … Todd (Gurley) played fantastic. You could hear the way the crowd responded when his name was called with the starters. He played well and inspired his teammates. … (Nick) Chubb is a physical back who runs with determination. He has more ability to make people miss than you’d think and he has good vision. He’s a good back, a special
back.”

QB Hutson Mason
On tonight’s game…
“Our mindset coming in was that we were going to have to score a lot of points to win. That’s just because it’s Auburn and with their offense they usually score a lot of points. For us to hold Auburn to just seven points, what a night for our defense.”

On this being a statement win…
“Absolutely. It was definitely a statement. There’s a difference between a win and sticking a knife in an opponent and we shut them down tonight.”

RB Nick Chubb
On tonight’s game…
“This was a big win. It’s a great rivalry game between Auburn and Georgia. This is my first experience and it feels great to get a big win.”

On the play of his offensive line…
“Those are some bad boys up front. They make running a lot easier for us. We couldn’t do it without them.”

ILB Amarlo Herrera
On containing Auburn’s offense…
“We just ran to the ball on every play. We practiced that way all week. We practiced with the mindset that we were going to get to the ball and we weren’t going to let them run on us.”

On this game building confidence…
“We always play with confidence. We don’t lack confidence on defense. This was a big win, though. It’s an SEC game and it put us back in the race for the SEC Championship.”

OLB Lorenzo Carter
On his playing time…
“It’s great. It’s really something with me, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins all out there at the same time. It’s pretty crazy really, but Coach Pruitt makes it work.”

On the gameplan of the defense going into the game…
“We emphasized keying in on them and running up field to set the edge. That’s what Coach Pruitt really put a big emphasis on this week in practice and we hunkered down and made plays.”

Auburn Post-Game Quotes
Georgia vs. Auburn
Sanford Stadium | November 15, 2014
Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn
On the game…
“Obviously this is a disappointing loss. Congratulations to Georgia. They have a good team. They beat us in all three phases on the night. On special teams, we sort of ran into the kicker and they scored right after that and I think that was a big play. Offensively, if we got first downs, we had holding penalties that brought them back. At the start of the third quarter, we had two drops back-to-back, which hurt the momentum. Defensively, we had trouble stopping the run. We knew Georgia is strong running team and they wore us down in the third and fourth quarters.”

On the offense….
“We didn’t get it done offensively, which I think is obvious. They have a good defense but at the same time, we have high expectations that we can get it done.”

On stopping the run…
“We played a very good running team. They are one of the best teams in the country at running the football and they got their star back.”

On moving forward…
“Anytime you get beat convincingly, as a coach, you have to try and solve the issues that you think you need to moving forward. We have to be big boys. We got it handed to us tonight. That’s uncharacteristic of this team and we have to bounce back.”

DB Jonathan Jones
On what went wrong out on the field…
“They [Georgia] brought it. In all three phases they showed up and they brought it. We’ve just got to get back to it and get better, honestly.”

On how the team will bounce back…
“You’ve got to start over. You really just have to black it out, get it out of your mind, and come back on Monday ready for a new start.”

On Georgia tailbacks Nick Chubb and Todd Gurley…
“They’re great backs. We knew we had to come in and tackle and gang tackle, but give credit to them for coming out there and running hard.”

LB Kris Frost
On what it was like playing against Gurley and Chubb…
“I mean, they’re great backs and we knew that going into the game, obviously. But it’s the SEC and we play great backs every week. They did as expected. They’re tough guys to bring down but it’s all about fitting the run and making sure everything is squared away but we didn’t do too good of a job at that tonight.”

On what played into the defense’s failures against the run…
“We had some misalignments and they came out with some stuff we haven’t seen. Pretty much they beat us up front and guys were getting up on the linebackers. They did a good job and they’re a great team.”

DL Gabe Wright
On the back-to-back losses…
“We firmly believe, even with the two losses, that we can bounce back. I can tell you that what we showed tonight is not how we’ve practiced this whole week. Collectively we had one of our best weeks of practice, no doubt about that. The energy was good but Georgia just did better or matched that and they executed
their game plan. Moving forward, we may be out of the playoff race but in all actuality there’s still so much to play for. The playoff and the national championship is the biggest, and that’s our goal, but at the same time we can’t get caught up and let another loss turn into another loss. We have Samford at home on senior
night, so we have that to look forward to. We’ve just got to address it and keep on moving forward.”

Bulldogs Bounce Back by Battering ‘Cats, 63-31

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

LEXINGTON—A week after the Bulldogs’ disappointing 18-point loss to Florida, while suffering through quite a history of having a “hangover effect” following double-digit losses, Georgia (7-2, 5-2 SEC) bounced back in a big way, bucking the decade-long bad trend, by throttling Kentucky (5-5, 2-5), 63-31, this afternoon in front of just over 60,000 in attendance at Commonwealth Stadium.

The 17th-ranked Bulldogs, whose 63 points were the most scored by a Georgia team against a conference foe in more than 70 years (75 vs. Florida in 1942), defeated their last three true road opponents on this season’s schedule—Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky—by a remarkable 26.3-point scoring margin.

In order for Georgia to rebound from its setback to the Gators, while remaining focus on its season goal to win the SEC title, it was imperative for the Bulldogs to get off to a fast start against the Wildcats on the road. And, a fast start Georgia did indeed get off to when freshman Isaiah McKenzie returned the game’s opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

“I [saw the hole] open up really quick on the right side, and once it opened up I knew I had the speed to get there,” said the speedy McKenzie regarding his opening return. “I just hit it”

For McKenize, who returned a punt for a touchdown earlier in the year against Troy, he became the first Bulldog in nearly 50 years (Kent Lawrence, 1966) to return both a kickoff and punt for a score in the same season.

Georgia’s good start turned into a tremendous one when the Bulldogs scored touchdowns on their first two offensive possessions and built a 21-0 lead. First, quarterback Hutson Mason passed for a 15-yard touchdown to Chris Conley, followed by an 18-yard scoring run by Nick Chubb.

Chubb, who finished with 170 rushing yards on only 13 carries, became just the second Bulldog true freshman in history to achieve four consecutive 100-yard rushing outings. In 1980, Herschel Walker reached four in a row, like Chubb, in games six through nine of his freshman campaign.

“I am very happy,” Chubb said of Georgia’s recent winning ways on the road. “I feel like everyone has been picking up each other’s slack, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We have also been putting up points on offense, and I feel like that is what it takes to keep winning.”

After punting on its first two offensive possessions, Kentucky’s efficient offense ran the game’s next 24 offensive plays. After a 74-yard, 16-play drive ended with a touchdown, the Wildcats recovered a misplayed kickoff, and tallied a field goal on their ensuing drive, cutting Georgia’s lead to 24-10.

Prior to halftime, Mason added touchdown passes to Malcolm Mitchell and Conley for a second time. For Mitchell, who sat out nearly all of last season and the first four games of this season with injuries, it was the redshirt junior’s first touchdown scored in two years (Georgia Southern, 2012). However, for each Georgia touchdown, Kentucky answered with a score of its own: touchdown runs by running back “Boom” Williams and quarterback Patrick Towles.

For the game, Williams rushed for 100 yards on just 10 carries. Dual-threat Towles completed 16 of 31 passes for just 139 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, while rushing for 60 yards and the touchdown on 17 carries.

With the Bulldogs having a 35-24 halftime advantage, the scoring spree continued into the third and fourth quarters, but with all of the second-half points predominantly scored by Georgia.

On the first play of the second half, Towles was intercepted by Bulldog safety Corey Moore. After four consecutive Chubb runs down to the Kentucky 10-yard line, Mason passed to tight end Jeb Blazevich for a touchdown and a 42-24 Georgia advantage.

Before taking the final quarter off, Mason was near-perfect in the first three quarters of play, completing 13 of 16 passes for 174 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.

“More practice reps and more communication,” Mason replied when asked about his spectacular passing performance. “These last three games we’ve really come out throwing the ball a lot better. It’s really helped, It’s a mixture of everything.”

Less than two minutes later, McKenzie reached another milestone in the annals of UGA football when he returned a Wildcat punt for a 59-yard touchdown. Giving Georgia a 49-24 advantage, McKenzie became the first Bulldog in history to return both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns in the same game.

Late in the third quarter, Sony Michel capped a 95-yard drive with a touchdown run from 23 yards out. The true freshman tailback, playing his first game in six weeks following an injury, rushed for 84 yards on a team-high 16 carries. Also worthy of mention was the play from Jonathon Rumph. The senior wide receiver, seeing his first action all season, caught 4 passes for a game-high 81 yards.

With Georgia leading 56-24 after three quarters, backup quarterback Brice Ramsey played almost the entire fourth quarter and directed the Bulldogs to a touchdown with just under 10 minutes remaining. The redshirt freshman completed 5 of 5 passes for 80 yards, including an 8-yard scoring toss to Blazevich.

Following Georgia’s satisfying 63-31 victory, and apparently with their loss to Florida well behind them, the Bulldogs will finish their regular season with three consecutive home games, beginning with a critical meeting with Auburn next Saturday.

“It’s going to be nice to be home,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said following the game. “It’s going to be an exciting day next week for sure. … I’m glad we had an early game today and got the victory and we can get home with a little bit of time to regroup and rest before we start getting cranked up on that plan for Auburn.”

Richt and Team Moving On Past the Gators and “Just Trying to Win Games”

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—The day after primarily receiving questions on his Monday night radio call-in show regarding Georgia’s embarrassing 38-20 loss to Florida, head coach Mark Richt immediately fielded more of the same this afternoon at his weekly press conference.

“There were two things that got us the most,” Richt said of his defense’s poor performance against the Gators. “At times when we were supposed to set the edge, and when I say ‘set the edge’ I’m talking somebody’s responsible for keeping a play from bouncing out the back. … There were times where we just got too far inside and we just allowed [the play] to bounce. … A couple of times, not as many times, but a couple of times we had issues with guys not staying in the right gap.”

Richt concluded that some of his defenders were “trying to make a play” against Florida’s ground game instead of simply “doing their job.” However, the coach stressed there were no cases of “anybody moping or giving out or giving up,” but more of an “execution issue” than anything else.

The fact that both of the Bulldogs’ two losses this season have resulted following bye weeks was brought up, prompting Richt to declare “I know,” as if this had been pointed out to him many times before the last few days. “In hind sight, yes, what can you say [on whether or not the bye weeks had negative effects],” Richt asked. “Do you revisit what we do in open dates? We’ve been doing this a certain way for quite some time now and haven’t necessarily had those [negative] results, but this year we did.”

Actually, “those results” have been happening for several years. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Georgia is now 6-4 following a bye week; and, of the six victories, five were by a winning margin much closer than what was forecasted, so to speak (i.e., against the point spread).

During the individual player interviews, a couple of Bulldog defensive linemen—Toby Johnson and Sterling Bailey—were asked if their preparation, or at least their mindset, for the Kentucky game is altered in anyway because of the 18-point loss to the Gators: are they being coached to not let one bad loss turn into two?

“Not really,” Johnson replied. “The coaches do a really good job of keeping us humble and ready to work. It’s not going to be any different this week against Kentucky [than Florida]; just do the little things a lot better.”

Notably, in the last 10 years, Georgia has just a 9-5 record in games immediately following double-digit losses; and, of the nine victories, eight were by a winning margin much closer than what was forecasted, again, so to speak.

“No, we’ve moved past it,” Bailey said in regards to the sizable loss to Florida actually assisting the team in preparation for this Saturday. “It doesn’t weigh in moving forward towards Kentucky.”

A recent weekly press conference wouldn’t be complete without a question, or two, about Todd Gurley and his current suspension. Regarding the additional two-game suspension, Richt speculated that his star tailback wasn’t expecting to be reinstated right away. “I think he had a wait-and-see kind of attitude,” Richt said. “I’m sure it hurt when he heard that news [of his additional suspension] because I’m sure there was some hope [of being reinstated prior to the Florida game].”

Richt was then asked if he had communicated with Gurley about finishing this season “strong” upon his return for the Auburn game on November 15th: “I don’t know why we keep bringing that up. [Gurley’s] there and he’s [currently] practicing. He can’t wait to play.”

Although apparently Gurley can’t wait to play, he must wait one more game until he does so. As for his one-time backup, freshman Sony Michel, who has missed the last four games due to an injury, Richt is hopeful for his return against the Wildcats.

“[Michel] is getting there; he’s practicing,” Richt said. “We’ll know more in a couple of days, and again, we’re hopeful he can play.”

However, as for junior Keith Marshall’s status, and the chances of him being redshirted since the junior tailback has appeared in just three games in an injury-filled season, Richt had evidently been asked about this before, as well.

“I’m not even going to talk about that right now,” Richt said of Marshall possibly being redshirted. “We’re just trying to win games.”