Saturday, September 22, 2018

Post Game Notes

UGA Sports Communications

Scoring/Series History: For the fourth straight game this year, Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) scored at least 40 points marking the first time since 2012 the Dawgs have done that. In 2012, Georgia opened the year with five straight games of scoring at least 40 apiece. This season, Georgia now is averaging 44.5 points a game. The school record is 37.8 set in 2012. With today’s 43-29 win, Georgia improves to 7-1 in the all-time series including 4-0 in Columbia.

Defense: In the first half, Missouri ran 38 plays for 159 yards and was held to one touchdown after coming in today averaging 43.7 points a game. In the 2nd half, Missouri tallied 22 points and finished the game with 393 yards of total offense on 85 plays, that’s four more than No. 2 Oklahoma ran in the Rose Bowl game double-overtime game, the previous high against a Kirby Smart team.

Georgia notched its second defensive TD of the year today, this latest by freshman Tyson Campbell, a forced fumble and recovery as he raced 68 yards for a TD. It’s the ninth defensive/special teams score in the Kirby Smart era. Before today, the last fumble return for a TD came by J.R. Reed in the 2017 win over Florida in Jacksonville. Junior Tae Crowder’s first career interception was returned to the Tiger 7 and led to FG and 13-7 edge.

Georgia’s leading tacklers were J.R. Reed(8) and Deandre Baker and Richard LeCounte had seven apiece. Also, D’Andre Walker had 2 forced fumbles and 2 sacks in the first half. Georgia had one sack coming in.

2nd Half TD Bombs From Fromm: In the 1st half, sophomore QB Jake Fromm was 6-for-14 for 66 yards, no TDs and an INT. However in 2nd half,Fromm went 7-for-9 for 194 yards and 3 TDs with the scoring strikes covering 33 (Riley Ridley), 61 (Jeremiah Holloman) and 54 (Mecole Hardman) yards to finish 13-for-23 for 260 yards, 3 TDs.

Stokes With A Special Teams Score: Redshirt freshman Eric Stokes blocked his first career punt and returned it eight yards for a touchdown to put Georgia in front 20-7 with 5:45 left in the first half. It was the first blocked punt return for a TD since 2006 when CJ Byrd did it against UAB. It marked the 10th special teams/defensive score in the Kirby Smart era and second today to go with a 68-yard fumble return by freshman Tyson Campbell. Today marked the first time since the 2015 road game at Tennessee that Georgia has scored a defensive TD and special teams TD in the same game. That year, Leonard Floyd had a 96-yard fumble return and Reggie Davis had a 70-yard punt return.

Busy Day For Blankenship: Junior PK Rodrigo Blankenship went 3-for-5 on field goals (made 44, 21 and 40, missed 49, 36-yarder blocked). His first kickoff today was not a touchback for the first time this year as there was a strong wind, ending a streak of 23 that led the nation. Blankenship’s 44-yard FG put Georgia in front 10-7 with 13:51 left in the 2nd quarter and a 21-yarder made it 13-7 early in the 2nd quarter. He missed a 49-yarder with 7:17 left. He added a pair of PATs in the second half. For the year, he is 6-for-8 on the year in field goals and 30-for-32 in touchbacks. A 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked in the 4th quarter, the first by an opponent since TCU in the 2016 Liberty Bowl.

Points off Turnovers: Georgia scored 10 points off three Missouri turnovers, all in the first half, while the Tigers got no points off 1Dawg miscue. For the year, Georgia is +5 in Turnover Margin, scoring 31 points off eight turnovers on the year. Opponents now have forced three turnovers and turned them into no points.

On Georgia’s first possession, Missouri picked off Jake Fromm, and it led to a turnover/forced fumble and recovery by freshman Tyson Campbell who returned it 68 yards for a TD and a 7-0 lead. Georgia junior LB Tae Crowder picked off his first career pass and returned it 43 yards to the Tiger 7. It led to a field goal. With 2:18 left in the half, D’Andre Walker forced a sack/fumble and recovered by Deandre Baker at the Georgia 45. It led to a failed fourth down conversion attempt at the Tiger 31.

Points To Ponder: Georgia led 20-7 in the first half as both teams came in entering 40+ points a game, and the lone offensive touchdown came by Missouri. Georgia leads the SEC in scoring defense, allowing just eight points a game. Missouri came in averaging 43.7 points a game. In the 1st half, Georgia had 148 yards of total offense while the Tigers had 159. Georgia had a defensive TD and a special teams TD plus a pair of field goals to gain the early advantage. The Tigers first TD drive covered 55 yards on nine plays to tie the game at 7-all with 2:03 left in the first.

For Starters On The Line: ​Sophomore LT Andrew Thomas returned to the starting lineup after missing the MTSU game. Senior C Lamont Gaillard started his team-leading 32nd straight game. Thomas went out in the first half and freshman Cade Mays filled in for the remainder of the game. In the third quarter, right guard Ben Cleveland went out with a left leg injury and was replaced by sophomore Justin Shaffer.

Captains: Today’s captains were juniors Issac Nauta, Tyler Clark and sophomore Ben Cleveland.

Dawgs Win Ugly On The Road

UGA Sports Communications

A defensive first half and offensive onslaught in the second half pushed the second-ranked Dawgs past the Missouri Tigers, 43-29, Saturday afternoon at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium.

A fumble recovery touchdown in addition to a blocked punt scoop-and-score highlighted Georgia’s scoring in the first half. Meanwhile the fast-paced offensive second half consisted of seven total scores with Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) using three touchdowns and a field goal to seal the win. With its first loss of the season Missouri falls to 3-1 and 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

“The flow of the game was about what I thought it was be, there was a lot of emotional big plays,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I didn’t see us having the big plays in the turnover game with the fumble recovery and blocked punt, but they were really big plays. We struggled some to stop the run today, which is not indicative of defense we want to have, and we struggled to run the ball. When you have that combination then you are going struggle some and we did. Give Missouri credit, they have a good football team. We knew that coming in. I’ve always respected them. They’ve won nine of the last 10 games and you don’t do that by accident.”

Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm finished 13-for-23 with 260 yards and three touchdowns and one interception despite finishing the first half with only 66 yards in the air. Fromm’s main target was junior wide receiver Riley Ridley who hauled in five catches for 87 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, junior back Elijah Holyfield piled up 90 yards on 14 carries and sophomore D’Andre Swift added 71 yards on 16 attempts.

Defensively, junior J.R. Reed led the team in tackles with eight with fellow defensive backs Deandre Baker and Richard LeCounte tallying seven apiece. D’Andre Walker created havoc in the backfield with two sacks including two forced fumbles. Freshman defensive back Tyson Campbell returned a fumble for a touchdown, while redshirt freshman Eric Stokes blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.

The Dawgs headed into the half with a 20-7 lead after defense and special teams dominated the pace of the game. On third-and-nine, Campbell stripped Missouri’s Al Okwuegbunam and scoop-scored for a 64-yard fumble return to put the first points on the board.

After the Tigers evened the score, junior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship connected on a 44-yard field goal to move Georgia back in front 10-7. On the ensuing drive, the Georgia defense produced another turnover – this time a 43-yard interception return by linebacker Tae Crowder. The takeaway turned into another Blankenship try, a 21-yard field goal, for the 13-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Special teams then made its splash later in the second to put the Dawgs up 20-7. Georgia bombarded Mizzou punter Corey Fatony with Stokes blocking the kick and scooping the football for an 8-yard touchdown.

A back-and-forth third quarter saw both teams trade touchdowns. First, Georgia with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Fromm to Ridley capped the five-play, 59-yard drive.

Mizzou responded with a long drive and score, but the Dawgs struck on their second play from scrimmage. Fromm threw a jump ball to sophomore receiver Jeremiah Holloman who eluded the sideline to run free for a 61-yard touchdown.

The Tigers got the last touchdown in the third to put the score at 33-22, and the scoring commenced immediately in the fourth quarter. On the first play, Fromm connected with a wide-open Mecole Hardman for a 54-yard touchdown pass to finish the Dawgs’ longest drive of the game that spanned 77 yards in just five plays.

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock pulled the game to a 40-29 margin on an 11-yard run with 10:47 left in the game. However, Georgia took the reins in terms of time of possession to seal the game.

The Dawgs ate nearly five minutes off the clock before Mizzou blocked a field goal, but the Georgia defense forced a turnover on downs to mitigate the loss. Another drive taking up 3:17 ended with a 40-yard Blankenship field goal, putting the game at 43-29 with less than two minutes remaining.

For the fourth straight game this year, Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) scored at least 40 points marking the first time since 2012 the Dawgs have done that.

The Dawgs return home for a two-game home stand starting with Tennessee next Saturday at 3:30 p.m., which will be aired on CBS.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tuesday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

The second-ranked Dawgs continued their preparations for their SEC match-up at Missouri with a 2-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.

Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart’s post-practice press briefing, as well as comments from players who were available after practice:

Opening Comments:

‘’Hot. It’s been really hot, but our guys continue to work. I thought we had good tempo today. I thought we got tired quick. The temperature was up and we did about three-fourths of it outside and the last part we came in. We were able to get some wet ball work for the potential of rain up there, with the quarterbacks and receivers having to handle a wet ball. I thought that was good. Guys continue to work hard.’’

How does Missouri QB Drew Lock compare to anybody else you’ve seen?

‘’You know, I hate to compare guys like that. I mean, his arm strength is Stafford-like. Cutler. Those are the guys I’ve coached against that were elite arm talent like him. He’s a really good athlete as well. He’s one of the better ones. Hard to compare him to somebody. He’s in a league of his own.’’

You’ve mentioned the success of Missouri’s run game. How have they improved this season?

‘’They’re more committed to it. I mean, they’re running more traditional run plays, and they still have a lot of the same run plays that all of America is running now, especially with ‘fastball.’ They have similar run plays to what we have. But they run power, they run counter, they run a lot of plays that you’ve got to be physical to run, and they’re creating that brand of football. It’s been a commitment to play in the SEC. You’ve got to run the ball. They’ve done that in the last three games and their commitment to that allows them to get one-on-one match-ups outside.’’

How would you gauge Cade Mays’ confidence level so far, given the status of Andrew Thomas this week?

‘’Cade’s a very mature kid. He comes from a family that’s raised him to be that way, to prepare hard, to work hard. He was a confident kid in high school. He likes competition. Good athlete. He’s in a good place, probably the most difficult position to play, in all of football, as a freshman, maybe outside of quarterback. It’s tough because there are some elite players in this league. He’s come in and taken the brunt of that pressure on his shoulders and done a good job with it. It’s a tough position to play.’’

Was Andrew Thomas able to practice today?

‘’He was out there. He was able to do a little bit. He wasn’t able to do a lot of physical, pushing work, but he was able to move around, be in pads, get the assignments, pick up on the mental aspect of the game. But he didn’t take a lot of what I would call ‘live’ reps.’’

What kind of progress have you seen in Richard LeCounte?

‘’Richard had a really good game against South Carolina. He played an OK game last week. He continues to grow. I think he’s gaining confidence in the system. Our defense requires a lot of calls for the safeties to make and he’s gotten command of that better. I see him in here a lot, meeting and watching some tape. He’s grown up. That’s what we need for this defense to function smoothly is the communication skills between linebackers, safeties and corners have to be a really good triangle, and he’s filling that triangle out much better. I’m really pleased with him.’’

What’s the thinking behind getting Kearis Jackson carries on offense?

‘’He’s just a good athlete. I mean, it’s no different than handing the ball off to Demetris RobertsonMecole HardmanTyler Simmons. Touches. I mean, that’s really it. You want your play-makers to touch the ball, and we think he’s a good player.’’

How important is Brenton Cox in his role on defense?

‘’Brenton has grown and progressed. He probably hasn’t shown up in games as much as he has in practice. I just don’t think he’s had many opportunities to get out there and flash and do what I think he can do. He’s played really hard. He’s played physical. He’s very conscientious about his assignments and learning those. Brenton just has to continue to grow up and mature. I’m hoping that a lot of these freshmen, who have played in three games now, can start to have a little confidence where they get over the butterflies and anxiety, so they can go play. He’s getting better with each and every game.’’

Will you bring up the game at Missouri from two years ago to the team this week?

‘’I don’t think so. I thought last year’s game they scored on us and got really hot two or three times. It’s a tough place to play. I’ve played there other times besides two years ago. They’ve got a great environment there. Their fan base is very passionate. But I don’t think this game has anything to do with the one two years ago. Not a lot of the same names and faces are present.’’

Does it feel like Justin Fields is settling into his role on this team?

‘’He’s a pretty calm kid. He’s a calm character. He doesn’t get real anxious about things. He’s excited. He likes to celebrate when he does well. Each time somebody else has scored, he runs down there and celebrates with them. But I definitely think he gets into a rhythm when he plays, the more he gets to play. He’s patient. He’s been good.’’

You’ve talked before in pre-season camp about freshmen hitting a wall. Is there a point in the season when freshman hit a wall?

‘’Oh yeah. I mean, some of these kids have daily walls. Every day it’s a struggle because of the focus and concentration, the intensity of practice. There are a lot of high school practices that aren’t like ours, from the standpoint of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the intensity, the amount of pressure you put on a kid to make decisions and make calls. They’re not used to that. We have a high-tempo practice. So a lot of these kids struggle with it and you hope they acclimate. And the older players have to bring the younger players along because a lot of the older players weren’t used to it their first year.’’

Sophomore DB Richard LeCounte:

On preparations for Missouri, after their success passing vs. UGA last season:

"I’ve watched that a few times, reviewing last year’s tape and watching this year’s tape on Missouri. Emanuel Hall is a real fast guy. We’re playing a great team this week and I’m all in on focusing on everything we need to do. Definitely staying deep, protecting the defense in front of you, because I’m the last line of defense back there. So whenever I can stay deep and chase the ball down, that’s something I take pride in."

Is Missouri the toughest test so far? 

"You could say that. Every week we come in with the mindset of making us better, as far as the team, so the game plan is still going to be executed to a ’T’, but this team is definitely a real good team. We never take any opponent lightly, but we’re really focused this week."

On preparing for Missouri’s offense: 

"Definitely just make sure we get back to our fundamentals and basics, getting everything back to what we’re used to doing.’’

Sophomore LB Monty Rice

Keys to defending Missouri’s offense: 

"We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback so he doesn’t have all day to sit back there and go through his progressions and make good throws, which he can do."

On improving the pressure on QB:

"It’s not about getting sacks because sacks don’t win games. It’s about getting pressure on the quarterback and making sure he’s not comfortable, getting him to move on his feet."

Evaluate Georgia’s run defense so far:

"I think it can be better. We just need to be better at staying in gaps."

On importance of stopping on first and second downs:
"It’s big because we’ve got some good stuff on third down that we can go to that people won’t be able to block. But if it’s third-and-two, we can’t run that. I just want to stop the other team. It doesn’t matter what call we’re in.’’

2019 Schedule Released

UGA Sports Communications

Games with Notre Dame and Texas A&M highlight the 2019 University of Georgia home football schedule announced Tuesday by the Southeastern Conference.

Notre Dame will be visiting Athens for the first time in history while the Aggies will be making their first appearance between the hedges since 1980. The Dawgs have seven home games on the schedule which also includes SEC contests with South Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri along with non-conference teams Murray State and Arkansas State.

The schedule also includes two open dates on Sept. 28 and Oct. 26. The Dawgs will travel to Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia Tech along with the annual game against Florida in Jacksonville.

2019 Georgia Schedule

Aug. 31                  at Vanderbilt
Sept. 7                   MURRAY STATE
Sept. 14                 ARKANSAS STATE
Sept. 21                 NOTRE DAME
Sept. 28                 Open Date
Oct. 5                     at Tennessee
Oct. 12                   SOUTH CAROLINA
Oct. 19                   KENTUCKY
Oct. 26                   Open Date
Nov. 2                    vs. Florida (Jacksonville)
Nov. 9                    MISSOURI
Nov. 16                  at Auburn
Nov. 23                  TEXAS A&M
Nov. 30                  at Georgia Tech

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Post Game Quotes

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

Thoughts on the game… 

"We started off a little rough with some penalties and organizational stuff that we'll clean up. But I thought we came out physical and played hard. ... I like the toughness we show during the week. We've created a standard the last couple of years, and now we're owning it with players holding other players accountable.”

On reserves getting playing time… 

"Every player who goes in needs to perform like a starter. There's no room for error because we're one play away from those guys. At times, I thought we did that really well. ... We've been able to play a lot of players the first three games. But we know a fourth quarter kind of game is coming. ... The only way to get better is to play. We coach them during the week and they think they've got it, but it's different in a game. They can grow from that and they'll be ready when their time comes."

On Missouri… 

"Missouri is really talented. And they're big. They have big offensive linemen, quarterback, tight end, wide receivers ... they're built like an SEC team should be. Playing at their place is never easy. We'll have our work cut out for us."

Jeremiah Holloman, Sophomore, Wide Reciever  

On his breakout performance, with his first career touchdown catch and a team-high 90 yards receiving... 

“It feels good. I mean, competition in the room definitely has brought out the best of me, so that’s really what has gotten me to the level of what I’m at right now, but definitely it feels good.” 

On the chemistry with quarterback Jake Fromm... 

“It’s just the fact that we trust him. He was definitely commanding the offense. He knows what’s going on at all times, and he’s able to relay the messages to us just in case we’re off of it or something like that. All in all, we all just trust him. That’s what it is.” 

 Richard LeCounte, Sophomore, Safety

On the way the defense is solidifying together after three games… 

“I see our defense really making a stand, doing everything we’ve practiced and setting the tone early. Guys are doing their assignments and getting the job done early. It’s a great picture of what our defense is about.” 

On playing alongside veteran DBs Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed... 

“Playing with those guys, they’re very experienced and keep me on my toes. They’re getting me to my spots, us helping each other. Maturing in that secondary, that’s a great thing for us to do.” 

Mecole Hardman, Junior, Wide Receiver 

On how special this season has been for him… 

“It’s been fun. Really, I’m just going out there trying to help our team as much as I can, and make plays when my number is called and go from there. But definitely, I’ve been having fun this season and it can shape out to be a great season." 

On his comfort with the receiver position… 

“It feels good getting the hang of things, but definitely right now I feel more comfortable than I ever have. I’m just trying to keep my confidence level high and just be the best receiver I can be.”

Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill 

Opening Statement 

“I’d like to start off by congratulating Kirby and Georgia. They’re an excellent football team that played really good today. I have a lot of respect for Kirby; he’s one of the good guys in this profession.

As far as us, it’s tough sledding out there. The swallowed us up. They’re bigger than us, faster than us. We couldn’t create any separation at receiver. There were no openings, they just swallowed us up. That’s why they’re ranked where they’re ranked. I’m proud of our team. I told them that in there. Losing stinks. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Georgia or the 130th team in the country, it doesn’t matter, losing stinks. When they hurt, I hurt and I’m proud of that team in there because it was tough sledding today.” 
On the Blue Raiders’ first three games in 2018… 

“Two stinkers and one lover. I loved one of them, I hated the other two. When you play SEC teams, it’s tough, it’s hard and physical. We matched up a hair better with Vanderbilt than with Georgia. When you see their corner, his speed, he comes in there, he’s 6-4, and he barely played till the end of the game. They just swallowed us up. … We’ve got to find a way to get our guys back and to get healthy, so we can get ready for conference play starting up.” 

On what his team got out of Saturday’s game with Georgia… 

“Not a whole lot. We did some good things. We moved the ball at times offensively against their ones. At times defensively, we stopped them and made them punt. So, we did some good things. These games, the overall depth eventually takes its toll on you.” 
Darius Harris, Red-shirt Senior, Linebacker 

On tackling... 

"We made some good tackles and we gave up some big plays and missed tackles. We still can improve on that. There were too many missed tackles and that's a major part especially when you're playing a good team like them."

On playing Georgia... 

"Execution, perfect execution. You go out there, you have to be sound especially when you're at a disadvantage at speed and size. You want to go out there and do everything right. Going into conference you have to practice and do everything right. Everything perfect. I feel like if we do that we have a good chance to win."

Patrick Smith, Red-shirt Senior, Wide Receiver  

On playing one of the top teams in the country... 

"It let us know we have a lot of room for improvement and that we can compete with anybody that we want to. We just have to want to."

Brent Stockstill, Senior, Quarterback  

 On how he thinks they competed... 

"I thought we fought hard and competed. Obviously we hate to lose [but] we kind of knew we were outmatched coming into it. We had to play a perfect game and we got a nice little field position early but we weren't able to capitalize. We did some good things, we moved it a little bit, and we ran it pretty good but that's a really good defense we just played."