Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Josh Brooks Named Athletic Director

Josh Brooks has been named J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics at the University of Georgia. Brooks will become UGA’s 12th athletic director, following the retirement of Greg McGarity, who held the position for 10 years. 

“From visionary and strategist to contract negotiator, fundraiser, and champion for student-athletes—the modern-day athletic director must effectively wear many hats,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I am confident that Josh can wear all of these hats extraordinarily well, and I am excited to see our athletic program continue to evolve as one of the premier programs in the nation with him at the helm.”

Brooks joined the UGA staff in December 2016 as Executive Associate Director of Athletics. He was promoted to UGA Deputy Athletic Director in May 2018 and Senior Deputy Athletic Director in January 2020. Brooks is serving as Interim Athletic Director.

“First, I want to thank President Morehead for giving me this incredible opportunity,” said Brooks. “This is a dream come true, and I am excited to get started. To everyone who supports and represents Georgia athletics—from our student-athletes, donors, and fans to our coaches, staff, and administrators—you are the heart and soul of the Dawg Nation, and I am honored to lead an organization that means so much to all of us. As athletic director, you can expect me to be visible, to be connected and engaged, and to be tirelessly devoted to the success of our student-athletes.”

The search process was overseen by an 11-person advisory committee, led by Chairman and CEO of Synovus Kessel Stelling, with assistance from Michael Luthi, who leads the UGA Search Group, and Todd Turner, Founder and President of Collegiate Sports Associates. Morehead and McGarity previously worked closely with Turner on the hiring of Tom Crean as the men’s basketball head coach.

“I want to thank the members of the advisory committee, particularly the committee chair, Kessel Stelling, for devoting much of their holiday season to carefully reviewing a large number of interested candidates who met my stated criteria,” said Morehead. “I also want to thank Michael Luthi, who provided excellent support to the committee, as well as Todd Turner, whose guidance was invaluable during the search process. I am pleased that, in the end, the committee was able to interview a highly-qualified and diverse pool of candidates for this position.”

The athletic director position at UGA is responsible for leading the institution’s entire intercollegiate athletic program, which includes 21 NCAA Division I sports teams (9 men’s and 12 women’s) and operates an annual budget of more than $150 million. The athletic director reports directly to the President of the University and serves as a member of University Cabinet.

“Todd and Michael brought a number of highly-qualified candidates before the advisory committee,” said Stelling, who also serves as a member of both the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors. “After an extensive evaluation process, the committee selected several top-tier candidates to interview. Following those interviews, we provided our perspectives on the qualifications of each to President Morehead, who conducted his interviews. I am delighted with the choice he has made.”

In addition to Stelling, other members of the advisory committee included:
  • Paige Carmichael, Meigs Professor of Veterinary Pathology and member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors;
  • Darrice Griffin, UGA Athletic Association Deputy Athletic Director for Administration;
  • Mack Guest, Founder and President of LAD Truck Lines, President of the UGA Football Lettermen's Club, and Emeritus Member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors;
  • Sam Holmes, Vice Chairman of CBRE, Inc., member of the USG Board of Regents, and former Chairman of both the UGA Foundation and the UGA Real Estate Foundation;
  • Kearis Jackson, UGA football student-athlete and member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors;
  • Steve Jones, United States District Court Judge, member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, a UGA Foundation Trustee, and former President of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors;
  • Swann Seiler, Manager of External Affairs, Southeast Region, at Georgia Power, Emeritus Trustee of the UGA Foundation, Emeritus Member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and former President of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors;
  • David Shipley, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Law, Faculty Athletics Representative and Secretary of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and Chair of the Executive Committee of University Council;
  • Bonney Shuman, Co-founder and retired CEO of Stratix Corporation, UGA Foundation Treasurer, former member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and former President of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors;
  • Bill Young, Partner at General Wholesale Company, member of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, and former Chairman of the UGA Foundation.
Morehead noted that Brooks will assume the role at a time when intercollegiate athletics is facing several major issues nationally. “A number of critical issues are surrounding intercollegiate athletics right now—from name, likeness, and image to governance to COVID-19,” said Morehead, who serves in several key governance roles in athletics, including Vice Chair of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Board of Directors and Vice President of the Southeastern Conference. “Over time, I will expect Josh not only to lead the UGA athletic department but also to become a leading contributor to the national conversations shaping the future of intercollegiate athletics.”

Brooks previously served as Deputy Athletics Director at the University of Louisiana Monroe from 2015-2016. He also held positions as Director of Athletics at Millsaps College (2014-2015) and Assistant and Associate Director of Athletics for Internal Operations at UGA during his first tenure in Athens (2012-2014).

A native of Hammond, La., Brooks graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and completed a master’s degree in sport management from UGA. He and his wife Lillie have three sons, James, Jackson, and Davis.

Darrice Griffin will succeed Brooks as the Senior Deputy Director of Athletics. Griffin is currently serving as Interim Senior Deputy Director of Athletics. A native of Seagraves, Texas, Griffin joined the Georgia athletics staff in December 2017 as Deputy Director of Administration. She previously held administrative roles at the University of Massachusetts, where she was Senior Woman Administrator from 2015-2017, and at Columbia University, where she was Associate Athletics Director for Intercollegiate Sports Programs from 2012-2015.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Post Game Quotes

Kirby Smart 

Opening Statement...

I'd like to start by saying the Cincinnati team had an absolute incredible effort, toughness. The way they played us defensively, I have a lot of respect for Luke Fickell and his team. The quarterback they have is a talented man. For people to try to take shots at their conference, their level of play, they got a really, really good quality football team, a lot of seniors on that team. 

I'd also like to thank Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Gary Stokan and his staff. I'm telling you guys, where they've taken this bowl, where it started back when I played in it, to now a New Year's six, and being part of a special bowl package, the city of Atlanta, home of college football. They've got the best thing going. They do an unbelievable job. Chick-fil-A is one of the best companies in the world. I always say if I could run my organization like Chick-fil-A, I can be successful. Same way with the Peach Bowl. So we thank them for that. 

These seniors, they tied the winningest record of any senior class to come through. They really got slighted. We're going to remove the asterisk and erase it. Because with the Vanderbilt game, they would have been able to get that done. I just appreciate the guys never quitting and continuing to fight.

On the play before the game-winning kick, you tried a deep pass. Were you confident in your kicker being able to make it from that distance without having to make a shorter completion to help his cause?

Great question. We go through that situation probably every week. You can ask our players, we do it all the time. It was a must situation, must get out of bounds, we must get out of bounds, or get a completion for five yards. They had a really good call. They brought pressure. They trapped the flat. They knew we had to throw the ball out of bounds. We told JT it's either a shot, out of bounds or throw a completion to the flat. JT made a good decision. I would have loved it if he threw it a little flatter. He might have got Jermaine for a touchdown. But they took a chance and we wanted to take a chance if they were going to max blitz us. Yeah, I felt comfortable. That's within Pod's range. Pod came and told me before the game he felt good around 37. I think we were inside 37 at that time.

Obviously you're taking a chance there on punting the ball with the time left. Unbelievable play by your defense. We all understand it. What were you thinking at that moment? Comment on your defense's play in the fourth quarter.

Yeah, I probably agree with you. It's one of those looking back, we still got the timeouts, still got an opportunity to stop them. Felt good we could get it. We called for some fourth downs earlier that were probably longer than that even. I always believe if you have momentum in stopping people, defensively I don't know how many three-and-outs we had had, felt like we had the momentum back. We have a history here of we call it get the ball back for a minute. We got to stop them to get the ball back. I felt comfortable we could stop them with our timeouts. Called one to not spend it on the punt. We called two, gave up a first down. Give them credit, they had a good four-minute plan. The play they actually ran was a play we worked on down in the red area. It's a pick flat. If I had played it flat and let his man go deep, then recovered, actually got the ball out, which probably was the play of the game. If they complete that, we don't have a chance to win. Did a heck of a job. Looking back, maybe we should have gone for it there. 

You've won a lot of big games. To win in this style, this season, pandemic, defense shutting them down the last two quarters, it looked like everything came together in the final minute. Your satisfaction level, what this victory means to you now? 

Well, I'm certainly proud of our team. I'm proud of the adversity we went through throughout the year with the pandemic. I don't think we played our best game today. My hat is off to Cincinnati. They did a really good job of defensively controlling our run game, and offensively keeping us off balance enough with their quarterback run game, which we knew he was a good athlete, a good runner. Probably didn't give him enough credit. We couldn't finish on him in the first half. They stole a touchdown right there at the end of the half, then stole one back in the start of the second half. I'm really proud of these guys, how hard they fought. I don't think anybody really truly understands, not just Georgia, but how hard it was on entire college football to be persistent, to go this long, practice this long. My hat goes off to the guys in the room.

Obviously you guys are elated with the finish. If the kick had not gone through the uprights, do you think you would have an entirely different feeling heading into this off-season? Does it all ride on that 53 yards? 

I said it before, it was going to be the highs of high, the lows of low. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Everybody believes in momentum. I would feel much better if we just played our best game. I don't think we played our best game. I want to give Cincinnati credit for that, they created some of that. The narrative was out there that our team didn't want to be here, they didn't want to practice. That was never true. Our guys practiced hard. They played a really good, motivated football team that was trying to remain undefeated. To answer your question, I would not feel any different, but the perception would certainly be different all based off of two more yards or less, however far he cleared it by. 

On defense especially you had a lot of guys that had stepped in and got a lot of playing time today. Quay Walker, Latavious Brini, those guys, what can you say about the job they did today? Also James Cook, the way the team stepped up and honored him today. 

Yeah, first off, the defensive guys. We had a lot of guys come in out of position, guys down. It was a really tough week in the secondary. We had Tyrique having to move to corner. He's also the backup star. Brini was having to play. We had a couple days there where Lewis possibly out with the protocol, then he was back in. Jermaine Burton wasn't around. Nobody really knows what went on in the last seven days to create major issues. Travon Walker, not able to be with us today. We had some great practices. It changed every day. You couldn't find a rhythm to say this is where guys are going to play. They rose up today. They played better as the game went on, I thought. Brini got more and more comfortable as the game went on. It's tough. 

Back to Jack. This is the first time where he's really had to kind of make a late kick to win the game. Was there anything you said before he went on the field? Did you sense how he was feeling emotionally leading into the kick? 

I don't mess with Jack. I don't mess with kickers. I let them do their thing. I don't want to mess with their mojo, their rhythm. I don't say anything to them. I messed with him a few days in practice, but I didn't mess with him here today. I felt comfortable with where he was that he would have the leg strength to get there. That's about the spot that we work on it every week during two minute, that I say, Hey, if we get to that spot, we're going to be able to make the field goal. Probably the best thing that happened is he didn't have long to think about it. They were out of timeouts. It was important that we get out there and get set. You can get a delay of game in the heat of the moment. Get out there, snap it. They can't organize a rush. We do it every week. He drilled it. 

JT Daniels, Quarterback 

Can you walk me through the emotions of James and his father passing away. What was the significance of those tributes? Do you feel like you guys kind of won this game in honor of him, his family?

James and I have been very close since I got here. I remember when I posted my commitment to Georgia, Cook hit me right away. I got in contact with him. He was one of the first people I buddied up with. He's been like a brother to me since I got here. As soon as I heard, I hit him, made sure he's doing good. He's a leader, he's a worker. You never hear him complain. He's always doing the right thing. When something bad happens to someone good like that, it sits with you. It was something that us as a team, we all thought about it. You saw Coach Dell with the 4 jersey. That's how much Cook means to us, how much we're there for him when he needs it. We know he'd be there for us if we need him. 

Wondering, going through the emotions of this football game, the field goal, what goes through a guy's mind? Were you watching the play? 

There were definitely a lot of emotions. It was a field goal to win from 53. I trust in Pod about as much as I can. I felt no pressure to try and make a play I didn't need to when we were on the 35. That's what Pod does. We see it every day in practice. He's always on time, always doing his job. Monday through Friday you see him hitting all his kicks. I definitely say I had trust in Pod. Last second, yeah, I was saying some prayers right there. 

You're still new to this program relatively. What has this ride the last two months been like since you became the starter? What does it say to you about this Georgia team and program? 

At this point I feel like I've been here for years. Instantly when I came in I felt a connection with the team, a connection with the way this program is run is the way I would say it. We're all about ball. It's something you can say about pretty much the whole team, is that everyone just loves football. We're here to do our thing and be the best players we can be. Every single day, every single practice, Malik Herring, Zeus, George, everyone goes out and practices to their best ability every single day with a focus on getting better. Over the last two and a half months, I've really just enjoyed the time of being with like-minded guys that are all about work, all about ball, all about competing. 

Azeez Ojulari, Linebacker

Azeez, three sacks today. Why was it important for you to play in this game? Have you thought at all about what your future is, NFL or Georgia?

It was important for me to just to make sure the seniors go out the right way. Their last game, they worked so hard in this unpredictable season. You never know. Just got the opportunity to play for another game, so I took advantage of it, to play with my brothers. It was great.

Were you kind of surprised that UC left you guys as much time as they did by throwing the ball some on the last full drive they had and snapping the ball with time on the clock?

I mean, that's what we try to do, try to score or get first down. We just executed what we had to execute, just kept playing hard.

What was the key for you guys in the second half of shutting out that Cincinnati offense?

I mean, we just stayed within the game plan, executed, did everything the coaches wanted us to do. Made sure we had to get this win for the team. The momentum, we just used it. It helped us our way, yeah.

Jack Podlesny, Place Kicker

I guess obviously as a young kid when you're practicing in the backyard, which is one of those situations, cliché, that you dream about, think about. Is that how it always went down in your dreams? 

Yes, sir. 

Take me through it...

I just had faith in our defense and offense that they would stop the other team. I told coach before the game, I was good inside 55, 54 yards. Our offense drove. Once we kind of got there, I tried to slow my breathing because I didn't want to rush anything, I didn't want to overcompensate for anything. Snap from Payne Walker and hold from Jake, unbelievable. I tried to follow through with the kick and it went in. 

How important was today's game for you guys? What did you do differently in the second half? Was it communication? 

I just think our team, we came back at halftime, we knew that we hadn't given enough effort, that we needed to give more. It was honestly, like, we wanted to just send the seniors out with one more win. As Coach Smart said, they're the most winning senior team there's been in the program. So I'm happy to help with that in any way. 

You said you were good from 54 or 55. Would you have liked to have seen one more four- or five-yard completion to get it into a more comfortable range? 

I mean, any day I'd like a few more yards just to feel a little bit more comfortable. Whenever they ask me to go out there and perform, I try to do my best. Whatever yard line I'm at, I try to take it the same way. 

Kirby said, I don't mess with Jack. He doesn't come over and say anything to you. Is that something that you've asked for, Give me my space? Is that just the way it works out?

I've been here for three years now. I think he's kind of started to learn how I react to things, whether it's negative or positive. Just not to kind of come in my bubble. 

Are you watching the team on the last drive or are you doing what you have to do on the sideline to get ready? If you are not watching, what are you doing? 

At the beginning of the drive I'm over in the kicking net, I'm starting to warm up, just kind of get my leg loose again, kind of keeping an eye on the clock especially just so I know where we're at, whether we're going to have to call a rushed field goal. As they drove down the field, I felt comfortable that I was warmed up. I went further down, just stayed there and made sure that I was there ready to go if I needed to be called. 

Kirby said he thinks it helped you that Cincinnati didn't have any timeouts, didn't have to think about the kick too long. How much did that help you going out there? The TV cameras looked like they caught you after the kick kneeling down in a moment of reflection or prayer. What was that moment? What did it mean to you? 

So first part of the question, yes, I would say it was helpful they didn't try to ice me. I think it would go both ways, though. Going back to the Arkansas game, first game of the season, they tried to ice me. I hit the goalpost. So that actually helped in my favor. I think it goes either way. Second part of the question, just trying to remember why I'm here, God put me here, God is good, because it's just amazing to be here. 

When is the last time you made a game-winning field goal in your life? 

That was my first one ever. 

Didn't have one in high school either? 

No, sir. 

They said on the radio broadcast, that is the longest game-winning kick at Georgia since Kevin Butler's 60-yarder in 1984. How do you feel when you hear that? 

It's pretty cool. 

Was there anything said to you after the game in the locker room that kind of stands out to you by anybody?

I mean, just the endless support from everyone coming up, giving me hugs, high fives, everything. But one thing I think just standing out the most was people coming up and telling me the glory goes to God, that God had my back there. 

Nakobe Dean, Linebacker

George Pickens last couple games, what he's meant for the team. Obviously you and him are sophomores. Are you curious to see how Azeez and Jordan Davis are going to be back with you? 

It's great to have George on the team. He's definitely a big part of our offense and everything like that. Azeez, it would be great to have him back, to come play with me again. If they do choose to go onto the draft and everything, they do have my full support. They're my brothers for life.

Was there anything said at halftime about the way the defense played? Obviously they spit that long run out. After that, I think they had 22 yards in the fourth quarter. 

At halftime we came in, we looked at what we had to fix and everything, basically all our mistakes and everything. Basically we had to buckle down, fight through adversity. It's something we've been doing this whole pandemic, doing that the past four or five months. It wasn't much, just keep fighting and persevere. 

With the defense putting up eight sacks on the day, continuous pressure on Ridder, if you both could discuss how these moments and Azeez's performance in particular provided that much needed momentum? 

The person they put in at quarterback definitely in the second half was big. Coming into halftime, that's one of the main things we said, we had to contain the quarterback because he was running around making plays. We knew he was a good player coming in. Second half we got on him. I basically told them that, we basically discussed that we need to do better containing him. I feel like in the second half we did. 

What was the significance in honoring James Cook's father today? Did you feel like you kind of won this for him? Have y'all talked to him since the game ended? 

I haven't talked to him. We definitely played the game for all the seniors, definitely him and Travon, he wasn't able to make the trip because of COVID reasons. All them together, we played the game for all them. 

Chris Smith, Defensive Back

Overall rough day for the secondary, but you settled in in the second half. Only 32 yards on 27 plays. What happened to come together in the secondary? You were missing some parts. In the end you guys on the back end got it done. 

A lot of it in the first half was just communication and anticipation. In the second half we came out, we made sure we was talking to each other, calling plays out early, just taking stuff that we learned from the film room to the field. We got a lot of adjustments from the sideline, everybody comes up the sideline, get right on the bench, take the adjusting from the coaches. They helped us out a lot. A lot of other players on the team helped us out a lot. That brotherhood came through today for us. 

One of the seniors, Richard LeCounte, got to play on the last play. What kind of impact did he have with him around have with you guys? How cool was it to see him get out there one last time? 

He had a huge impact. Like I say, he always gave me tips when I was on the field, helped me out a lot. Very special to see him get out on the field on the last play and go out on top. 

Was there anything said at halftime about the way the defense played? Obviously they spit that long run out. After that, I think they had 22 yards in the fourth quarter. 

The message was to keep chopping and not give up. There was a lot of opportunities we missed in the first half that we capitalized on in the second half. Obviously they got that long run. After that we looked at each other and told each other we got to buckle it down if we're going to win this game. That's what we did. Q. Nakobe, would you care to comment on that as well? 

With the defense putting up eight sacks on the day, continuous pressure on Ridder, if you both could discuss how these moments and Azeez's performance in particular provided that much needed momentum? 

That was the focal point at halftime, getting pressure on the quarterback and things like that. We have full belief in our D-line they could do it. We just didn't capitalize in the first half like we did in the second half. Azeez's performance, he puts in the work every day. It was expected. It was great to see him go out there and make a lot of plays for us. 

What was the significance in honoring James Cook's father today? Did you feel like you kind of won this for him? Have y'all talked to him since the game ended? 

I agree with Nakobe. We had a lot of guys couldn't be here, guys that went through trials and tribulations. It was great for us to be able to get the win for them and Azeez. 

Cincinnati Post Game Quotes

 Luke Fickell, Head Coach

Opening Statement....

Obviously like I told our guys, very disappointing when you come out so close, but it's not -- we're not disappointed. I can't tell you how proud I am of -- I say the seniors all the time, but how proud I am of all these guys and all the different circumstances and all the things that have gone on not just this year but especially in the last probably month and a half, and how these guys have handled it and continued to move forward and take care of one another is what this game is really all about. It hurts. Every one of those guys in there hurts because they care so much and they have worked so hard and sacrificed, and it is what it is. We'll be better because of it. 

The game came down to the last offensive drive. Why were you snapping the ball with so much time on the clock, and what went into the decision to throw on the third down? 

What was the first question? 

Why were you snapping the ball with so much time on the clock? 

I didn't hear what you said. 

Snapping the ball with so much time on the clock gave Georgia about 20 seconds, and to throw on third down, giving Georgia 40 more seconds. 

Is that, really, are you serious? Because we're going to play to win. We play to win. And you know, we do what we do. It wasn't like we wanted to throw the thing. It was an opportunity. It was three different options to it. You know, we're not going to go back wondering and trying to play the wishing and wanting game. We're going to be aggressive. We are going to go and give our guys an opportunity. There's a lot of different things we do different when you go by hindsight, but we are going to play to win. 

What a great game. Crazy that you have to be on the losing end of it. What is the most important thing you'll take away from this team this season, even though you guys were able to come up short on an undefeated season, and what was Georgia doing differently in the second half, or was it something more on you guys' end? 

I think we'll always take away the commitment that these kids have had this year for this. Nobody that has -- it's not a coach, it's not a part of your training or doctor staff knows what everybody in this program and all the programs around the country have gone through this year. It's easy to sit back and watch and wish there were more people in the stands and things like that, but what these kids and guys have gone through, these young men and what the coaches and doctors and everybody has gone through, I don't think you'll ever forget the sacrifices and the commitment from a lot of people. I hope every one of our kids remembers that because this is what life is really about, and you've got to make sacrifices, you got to grow up no matter what the situation is. 

I was curious, you had a couple of plays where you were in third and two and had some false starts on offense. Was there anything in particular you were seeing? Was it the shifts from the defensive line that was causing issues? 

We've had some issues this year with that and when you're mixing guys around in there, you know, as the season is going to be, whether they are injuries or what's gone on this entire year, these are those little things that more and more you have to clean up. It's happened to us late in the year because of layoffs and things like that, but that's no excuse. They are shifting their movement, and people are going to do that. We have to be better at those things, that's for sure. 

How much of a factor was the DQ of your starting tackle in the first half? How much did that affect the game, do you think? 

I don't know many offensive linemen thrown out of the game this year, but it happens. When one guy goes down, another guy has to be able to step up. We had a couple guys in the last few days, or even the last few hours, who couldn't make it, as well. 

We've talked about it and you mentioned it as a measuring stick, and I know you didn't win the game, and you had the lead for all but three seconds of the game, and you went toe-to-toe with a Top-10 team from the SEC. Where do you think you measure up against the best of the best? 

We're not there yet. That's what keeps motivating you, and I think that, you know, there's a lot of things we're going to take from this that we know we can do. But it also helps us and makes us hungrier to say, hey, we know what we've got to get to, and there's a few other steps that we've still got to be able to take, you know, closing it and sealing it and those kinds of things are one of those steps. 

Quite a few guys out today. How proud are you of these guys for stepping up and really not making it -- didn't miss a beat with so many key guys missing. 

Words can't tell you. And it's because of guys like these two right here that are leaders that didn't bat an eye at a -- James Wiggins or Ahmad or Gerrid Doaks. These guys went right to the next guy. And it's hard on some of those guys who just jumped in. Jerome Ford had to be thrown into a lot more action, but when you have a guy like Desmond Ridder that you can look at, making calls and the guy that's kind of the energy to all that they do, it makes it a lot easier. They will never know how proud that we really are about how they have handled a situation the entire year, but that's what sends you away proud. 

You mentioned playing to win on that third and two call. We've seen you go for it in some of those fourth down situations. Knowing that was the call, how much consideration was there on fourth down? 

There was. You know, but again, you rely on your defense and -- you know, so there's a lot of things that you go back and try to look at and say, hey, there's things you can do differently, but it was definitely a consideration. I think that the difficult thing, as big as they are up front, knowing and trying to get some of those short yard situations, I don't know that that was the greatest advantage for us. So we were going to put it in our defense's hands and give them the opportunity to win the game for us. 

The fact that you came so close today, do you feel you guys can compete against any Power Five school?

We don't use that word, that P, whatever that is. They know what the SEC is; it's the really, really good conference with really good teams and great players. But we don't look at anybody any different. Obviously there's conferences that are, you know, historic and great and teams, Georgia, doesn't matter what conference they were in and what P was in front or after their name. That was a great football team and really loved the challenge.

Desmond Ridder, Quarterback

Coach mentioned the options on that last third and two play. Can you go through the call on what those options were and how you saw it unfold? 

It was a smash concept with Josh Whyle coming into the flat. We were expecting to get it to him quick. It was only one, two yards we had to gain, and then their corner had jumped outside of it, all the defensive push to our spot route at five yards, and then they cut Mike loose. The ball just didn't get -- the ball hung up in the air what felt like for an eternity. But if that ball would have gotten up and down quicker, it would have been a completion. 

Can you describe the emotion of playing in this game? 

It's been a wild week we've had. Not a normal Bowl experience where we come down for a week. Instead we practiced at home till Wednesday and flew out here and had almost like a two-day business trip. We've been ready to play this game for a long time. It's just, you know, disappointing, obviously, the way it ended. 

Can you just tell us what was going through your mind on the 14-yard touchdown to Josh? Can you tell us what was going through your mind? 

Like you said, it was about time, and then keep my eyes down the field and trust my O-lineman and then let play-makers make plays. Put the ball up and let them go make a play. It wasn't a perfect ball. Josh is one of our play-makers and he made a play. 

Coby Bryant, Defensive Back

You had a great season overall, but now with this loss, how do you put this in perspective? What do you think about the season overall? 

For it to be my last year, I had a ball. I appreciate all my teammates. We were all together as one, my brothers. I just had a ball. I'm disappointed in the loss. Obviously I wanted to win, but I wouldn't go to battle with nobody else besides my brothers, so I'm extremely grateful for them and Coach Fickell. 

The fact that you came so close today, do you feel you guys can compete against any Power Five school?

Absolutely. You know, we have the right coaches to prepare us, the right mentality. So absolutely, I have no doubt in that. 

Post Game Notes

Dawgs Erase Deficit And Win Thriller: Georgia (8-2) erased an 11-point deficit in the second half and capped a 24-21 comeback with a 53-yard field goal from Jack Podlesny (Peach Bowl record) with two seconds left and then ended the game with a safety on a sack by Azeez Ojulari. Georgia’s first and last points of the 2020 season were safeties (at Arkansas in opener). Podlesny (Offense) and Ojulari (Defense) were named the Chick-fil-A MVPs of the game by the bowl. Cincinnati dropped to 9-1.

The Dawgs tied a school record with eight sacks, including three by Ojulari which ties a bowl record. Podlesny’s field goal was the longest to win a game since 1984, when Kevin Butler hit a 60-yarder against No.2 Clemson in Athens with 11 seconds left. This is the largest deficit Georgia has overcome in the Kirby Smart era that began in 2016.

Senior Salute: The 2020 Dawg seniors conclude their career with a 44-9 record and that ties the school mark for most wins by a class, sharing it with the Classes of 2005 and 2019. Georgia’s 2020 season was limited to just 10 games due to the ongoing pandemic as it went 8-2. This was the first 10-game season since 1970 when the Dawgs went 5-5.

Daniels Directs Offense: Redshirt sophomore QB JT Daniels finished 26-for-32 for 392 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Georgia ran 25 plays for 243 yards of offense (224-pass, 19-rush) in the first half and ended up with 449 yards for the game on 63 plays. Down 7-0 in the first, Georgia went 44 yards on five plays to tie the game with 29 seconds left in the quarter. The Daniels to George Pickens TD covered 16 yards. Daniels had a pair of 50+ yard completions in the first half, his first two as a Dawg. He had a 51-yarder to Pickens and a 55-yarder to freshman Arian Smith. 

Georgia trailed by 11 after the second play of the 3rd quarter 21-10. Then it was down 21-16 with 8:59 left in game. Podlesny made a 32-yarder to cut it 21-19 with 6:43 left. And then Daniels led the Dawgs back from 21-19 with 1:28 left starting at the 20 to set up the game-winner.

Defense Today: Coming in today, Georgia ranked second in the SEC in Scoring Defense (19.9 points per game). In the first half, Cincinnati tallied 14 points, running 35 plays for 198 yards of total offense (170-pass, 28-rush) and then finished with 305 on 64 plays. In the second half, UC was held to just a TD on 107 yards and 79 of that came on one play.

UC took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, needing to go just 42 yards on seven plays after a four-yard punt. Right before the half, UC went ahead 14-10 with a 9-play, 75-yard TD drive in 3:40. On the second play of the second half, Jerome Ford had a 79-yard rushing TD to put UC up 21-10. Georgia’s next possession ended in a fumble at the UC 23. UC was shut out the rest of the way.
Today’s leading tackler was Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker with seven stops each. Jordan Davis had his first sack of the year while junior Adam Anderson had two sacks to give him 6.5 for the season plus recovered a fumble. Senior Malik Herring added a sack in the second half to give him two this season. Redshirt sophomore Azeez Ojulari had a strip-sack (recovered by Anderson). It led to a TD two plays later. He added two more including one that resulted in a safety to end the contest, giving him a team-high 12.5 this year. The previous high sacks in a game this season was five against Tennessee.

Bowl Streak Extended: Georgia extended the nation’s longest active bowl streak to 24 with today’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl appearance. With the victory, Georgia improved its all-time bowl record to 33-21-3 including 4-2 in Peach Bowls. This was Georgia’s first appearance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl since 2006. Today marked the first time since the 2008 Sugar Bowl that the Dawgs faced an undefeated team in a bowl as UC was 9-0. That year, No. 10 Hawaii was 12-0 and No. 4 Georgia beat them 41-10. Also, it was the last time Georgia wore black jerseys in a bowl. Earlier this season, Georgia wore black jerseys in a win over Miss. State.

Special Teams Summary: Redshirt sophomore PK Jack Podlesny went 3-for-3 on field goals: a 37-yarder with 3:46 left in the first half to make it 10-7; then a 32-yarder with 6:43 left in the game to make it 21-19, and finally the game-winner from 53 yards, a career long . He was 1-for-1 on a PAT. Podlesny finished the season 13-for-16 in field goals. The 53-yarder tied a Peach Bowl record. Georgia now has made an NCAA record 330 consecutive PATs as the streak includes six kickers dating back to 2014. 

Junior punter Jake Camarda, who is a finalist for The Ray Guy Award, finished with five punts for a 38.6 average. Also for the game, he had five kickoffs, all touchbacks. He came in averaging 47.9 yards per punt, however today his first punt hit a Dawg, resulting in a 37-yarder, and his next one covered just four yards.

A Look At The Running Game as Cook Honored: Redshirt sophomore Zamir White had 39 yards on 11 carries while sophomore Kenny McIntosh had five for 18 yards. Georgia’s second leading rusher, junior James Cook, did not play today as he was back home in Florida after the sudden passing of his father James Cook Sr. Running backs coach Dell McGee wore Cook’s jersey today.

Receiving Leaders: Sophomore George Pickens (7 rec., 135 yards, 1 TD) led the receivers today. Pickens first catch covered 51 yards while his TD catch was for 16 yards. Pickens has a team-high six TD receptions. Freshman tight end Darnell Washington tallied three catches for 46 yards including a career-high 38-yard reception. Coming in today, he had only four catches for 120 yards with two for 61 yards coming in the last game at Missouri. Freshman Arian Smith had a career-long 55-yard reception. Redshirt sophomore Kearis Jackson had three for 47 yards. McIntosh had five for 43 yards.

For Starters: The longest streak on defense belongs to sophomore safety Lewis Cine now with 12. The longest active starting streak on offense is 11 by junior lineman Jamaree Salyer and redshirt sophomore RB Zamir White. Georgia had two first-time starters today with redshirt freshman OL Xavier Truss at LT and junior DB Latavious Brini. Senior WR Demetris Robertson made his first start of the season and 18th of his career.

The Captains: The seniors were today’s captains with Richard LeCounte going out for the coin toss. Cincinnati won the toss and elected to defer.

Series History: Georgia now leads the all-time series 3-0 over Cincinnati. Georgia is now 10-6 versus top 10 teams in the Kirby Smart era.

Dawgs Come From Behind To Win Peach Bowl

UGA Sports Communications

Redshirt sophomore Jack Podlesny’s 53-yard field goal with three seconds remaining completed a remarkable 24-21 comeback victory for the ninth-ranked Dawgs (8-2, 7-2 SEC) over the eighth-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats (9-1, 6-0 AAC) Friday afternoon at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in front of 15,301 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and an ESPN television audience.

Trailing 21-10 entering the fourth quarter, Georgia posted 14 unanswered points in the final period to clinch the largest comeback of head coach Kirby Smart’s tenure in Athens.

Podlesny’s kick was the first game-winning field goal for Georgia since Rodrigo Blankenship’s 25-yarder to defeat Kentucky in 2016. It was also the third bowl-winning kick in program history and the longest game winner overall since Kevin Butler’s 60-yard boot against Clemson in 1984. For his efforts, Podlesny was named the Peach Bowl Offensive Player of the Game, becoming just the second place-kicker to earn the honor.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback JT Daniels piloted the Dawgs with 392 yards on 26-for-38 passing with one touchdown and an interception, while sophomore wideout George Pickens notched 135 yards on seven receptions, giving him 100-plus yards in consecutive bowl games.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Azeez Ojulari earned Defensive Player of the Game honors with three sacks and two forced fumbles, tying the school record for sacks in a bowl game. Overall, the Dawgs tied the school record for team sacks in a bowl with eight, matching the total set against Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean and junior linebacker Quay Walker led the Dawgs with seven tackles apiece. Overall, Georgia held Cincinnati to 305 yards on offense, including just 107 in the second half.

Both teams’ defenses dominated early in the game, with Georgia punting on its first two possessions, although the second kick from junior Jake Camarda only traveled four yards. Starting on the Georgia 42-yard line, Cincinnati took advantage with the first scoring drive of the afternoon for either side as quarterback Desmond Ridder found receiver Alec Pierce for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter.

The Dawgs immediately responded with a diving 51-yard catch from Pickens on the first play of the ensuing drive, followed by a 12-yard rush from redshirt sophomore tailback Zamir White to enter the Bearcats’ red zone. Georgia was unable to convert however as Daniels was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Coby Bryant, who subsequently lost the ball on a Pickens punch-out and forced Cincinnati to begin its drive at its own 1-yard line.

After the Bearcats stalled in their end zone, the Dawgs started their next drive near midfield and quickly capitalized as freshman tight end Darnell Washington rumbled into Cincinnati territory on a 38-yard catch-and-run. Washington’s gain allowed for Daniels to connect with Pickens on a 16-yard touchdown pass, tying the game just before the end of the first quarter with a 5-play, 44-yard scoring drive.

In the second quarter, Cincinnati methodically moved down the field, but a third down incompletion forced a 33-yard field goal attempt from place-kicker Cole Smith that missed wide left. On the very next play, Daniels connected with freshman wideout Arian Smith on a 55-yard pass to the Cincinnati 25-yard line. Nonetheless, the Bearcat defense held the Dawgs out of the end zone and forced a 37-yard field goal from Podlesny, giving Georgia a 10-7 lead with 3:46 remaining before halftime.

Once again, Cincinnati steadily moved the ball, highlighted by a 25-yard third down completion from Ridder to wideout Michael Young. Despite losing left tackle James Hudson to a targeting ejection, Ridder found tight end Josh Whyle for an 11-yard touchdown catch with just six seconds left in the half, moving Cincinnati ahead at the break.

The Bearcats carried the momentum into the second half, extending their lead to 21-10 on a 79-yard touchdown run from tailback Jerome Ford on the second play from scrimmage. However, following the scoring run, Cincinnati would only amass 28 yards of offense for the remainder of the afternoon.

On the ensuing drive, Georgia slowed its tempo and worked into Cincinnati territory, overcoming third-and-17 with consecutive completions to redshirt sophomore tight end John FitzPatrick and Pickens. Despite the conversion, Daniels fumbled on a first down sack and gave the Bearcats the ball at their own 23-yard line. The Georgia defense stepped up on the following drive, sacking Ridder twice and quickly forcing a punt.

Opening with the ball on the Cincinnati 49-yard line, Georgia moved toward the red zone with a pair of offsides penalties, but a stalled drive led to an unsuccessful fourth-and-1 attempt as Daniels’ throw to sophomore wideout Kearis Jackson was broken up.

Early in the fourth quarter, Ojulari put Georgia back in the game with a strip-sack of Ridder, recovered by junior linebacker Adam Anderson at the Cincinnati 25-yard line. With renewed confidence, Daniels found FitzPatrick for a 16-yard completion, followed by a 9-yard touchdown run from White. Following a failed two-point attempt, the Dawgs had cut the deficit to 21-16 with 13:20 to play.

On the subsequent drive, a three-and-out from the Georgia defense was negated after Cincinnati punter James Smith picked up a first down on a 9-yard fake punt run, but the Bearcats were unable to exploit the conversion. The Dawgs appeared to be headed toward regaining the lead with back-to-back long completions to Jackson and Pickens, but a sack-fumble by Daniels forced a 32-yard field goal from Podlesny, bringing the margin to 21-19 following a 6-play, 61-yard sequence.

After both teams punted, Cincinnati had an opportunity to run out the clock, but on third-and-2, Ridder’s pass was batted away by sophomore cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and Georgia regained possession. Daniels moved the Dawgs down the field on an 8-play, 44-yard scoring drive, culminating in Podlesny’s 53-yard field goal to seal the comeback victory. On the final play of the contest, Ojulari added one more sack to his tally, tacking on a safety that set the final margin, bookending the Georgia season with two-point scores.

Georgia will next take the field on Saturday, September 4th for a matchup against the Clemson Tigers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.