With the SEC Championship game in Atlanta less than two weeks away, the Dawgs know that they must first take care of business in their regular season finale at home on Saturday against in-state rival Georgia Tech.
“Georgia Tech is scoring an awful lot of points lately and they’re playing extremely well as a team,” said coach Mark Richt on Sunday evening. “We know what this game means to our program on a year-to-year basis, and we’re very excited about playing it. We know it’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be our senior day and the last shot for our seniors to play ‘Between the Hedges’. I hope to have a really positive experience.”
The Dawgs’ defense turned in a strong performance against Georgia Southern’s triple-option style offense, allowing just 14 points while recording six tackles for loss, forcing a fumble and making a pair of fumble recoveries. While Georgia Tech runs a similar offense to that of Georgia Southern, the Yellow Jackets will probably be expected to utilize the passing game more than the Eagles.
“Statistically, that’s been true,” said Richt when discussing the higher frequency of passes thrown by Georgia Tech as compared to Georgia Southern. “Of course, Georgia Southern only threw it four times and completed the one (against Georgia). I’ve seen a little bit of Georgia Tech throughout the year, and I’ve seen them throw the ball well. Then you read in the paper sometimes about what’s going on with them. I usually try to see how they did every week throughout the year, and you’ll hear that they’re throwing touchdown passes and that type of thing. They’ve always had a tremendously high yards-per-completion in their scheme, and I hear they’re throwing it a little bit more and better than they have in the past couple years. It’s just one more thing to deal with.”
Georgia jumped up two spots to No. 3 in this week’s BCS poll, released this afternoon, but despite the improvement in the polls, Richt’s focus remains solely on the upcoming game with Georgia Tech.
“I’m thinking that we need to have a great week of preparation for Georgia Tech,” said Richt. “Right this minute, all I can think about is Georgia Tech. The only thing I’m concerned about is playing Georgia Tech and trying to have a good game plan throughout the week so we can try to figure out a way to slow down that offense and get some points on the board.”
Richt mentioned the importance of additional preparations this week, noting that the break from classes due to the Thanksgiving holiday week will allow players to spend even more time both on the practice field and in the film room.
“The one good thing about this week is that we don’t have any classes all week and there is no 20-hour rule for us to be dealing with, so we’ll have as much time as we think we need,” said Richt. “You can overdo it with the players, and you can meet with them too long or practice too long. More isn’t always better, but we’ll at least not have to worry about counting every minute and if a player like Murray wants to spend more time with Coach Mike Bobo watching film, it’s not a problem doing that. That’s going to be really helpful. I think that our players really understand how important this game is, regardless of what’s going on outside of this game, so I think that we’ll all be able to focus on the right thing. We need to, that’s for sure.”
Richt also touched on the importance of the Georgia Tech game from a recruiting standpoint, as well as for the sake of playing for pride against a long-time archrival.
“The bottom line is that we know we play Georgia Tech every year,” said Richt. “We know that we play them the last game of every season, and we know that it’s one of the most historically bitter rivalries that we have here at Georgia. We know we’re playing for the Governor’s Cup, and we’re playing for a lot of in-state pride. We’re playing for the recruiting base in the state. There are just a lot of things we’re playing for, and the seniors in this game actually get a really nice trophy. The winners of the game get a very nice trophy and all the seniors get a watch, but the winning team gets a trophy, and I know our guys would love to have that. I know as a head coach I’d love to have one myself because it has all of the names of our seniors on it, so it’s something we take a lot of pride in, and I know Georgia Tech does as well.”
In yesterday’s game against Georgia Southern, freshman running back Todd Gurley became just the second true freshman at Georgia, along with Herschel Walker, to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. Gurley finished with 68 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts against the Eagles, and he now owns 1,041 yards on the season.
Despite the frequent carries by both Gurley and fellow freshman tailback Keith Marshall throughout the season, Richt insists that both players do not seem to have been effected by the physical demands of their positions as the season has progressed.
“There’s been some Mondays where they look a little bit more sore than others,” said Richt. “A couple of weeks back, I think it was after Kentucky, Gurley was gimping around pretty good. I think it was that week – I’m not 100 percent certain – but then that next Monday he looked fresh again, or at least fresher. I was wondering if it was a cumulative effect or if it was just one particular game. It looked more like just one particular game, which was good news for me to see because I was hoping he wasn’t going to look beat up every week from that point on. As it turned out, he came through in the next game pretty good and really moved around much better early in the week. So we’ll see what he looks like and what Keith looks like. You know, Ken Malcome had some carries too, and he was delivering some blows and taking a few too, so we’ll see how he comes out of it, as well.”
As far as injuries are concerned, Richt doesn’t think that any player was seriously injured in the game against Georgia Southern.
“I think Watts Dantzler is fine,” said Richt. “Merritt Hall looked like he tweaked his ankle there for a minute, but he went back in and finished. I know Bacarri Rambo got hit in the shin really hard, but I think it was more of just a bruise type thing. It wasn’t anything structurally within the knee or anything like that, so I think he’ll be sore but I don’t think there’s anything serious there. Usually if it was something big, I’d know about it by now, so I doubt there will be anything that will show up big from the game.”