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.