Monday, November 20, 2017

Chubb Named SEC Offensive Player Of The Week

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia senior tailback Nick Chubb has been named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week following the 42-13 rout of Kentucky, according to a league announcement.

This is the Dawgs’ seventh SEC weekly honor of the season.  Senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter was named the Defensive Player of the Week after the win at #24 Notre Dame; freshman quarterback Jake Fromm garnered Freshman of the Week honors in the victories over #17 Mississippi State and Missouri; Chubb was also named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week at Tennessee; senior left tackle Isaiah Wynn was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after the Vanderbilt victory; and J.R. Reed earned Defensive Player of the Week honors following the Florida win.

Chubb, a native of Cedartown, posted a season-best performance of 151 yards rushing on 15 carries (10.1 average) and scored two touchdowns, including a season-long 55-yard run, to push the #7 Dawgs past the Wildcats. Chubb joined Herschel Walker as the only Dawgs in history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in three different seasons after hitting the 1,045 mark last Saturday. Chubb currently ranks fourth on the all-time SEC list with 4,469 yards and is fourth on the NCAA FBS active list with six fewer games played than anyone above him.

Georgia Tech Preview

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed the upcoming game against Georgia Tech with media on Monday. The Dawgs take on the Yellow Jackets at 12:00 p.m. ET Saturday in Atlanta. 

Smart and the Dawgs offered the following comments on Monday. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments…

“We'll start preparing today for Georgia Tech and the team. With Thanksgiving break going on they have a little more time, which is good this week, especially, because they get to come in and watch a little extra tape against a unique offense that we don't get to face every week. I know our kids and our seniors will be excited to go play in Atlanta and also play a team that the last three years has beaten us twice, so it gives us an opportunity to send these seniors out the right way. And a great rivalry game that’s been in this state for a long time, I think they have got a really good offensive football team and a very good defensive football team that is doing a really good job on third downs. I think Coach Roof does a good job executing and they're very sound in what they do, and obviously Coach Johnson is one of the best in the business at what he does. He knows the answers to it, he knows the problems with it, and you're not going to trick him. You got to be very disciplined and you got to do a great job of getting off blocks and tackling the man with the ball. So that will be the objective this week as we prepare for Georgia Tech.

On the elements of Georgia Tech’s defense that has been described as “dangerous”…

“There's cut blocks, but there's cut blocks in all of football. They're just really good at what they do. They're probably better at it than most people because they work really hard at it and it's what they specialize in. Everybody's got what they're good at, that's what they're best at is running the football. And they do it on the perimeter, inside, outside, they mix it up, they wait and see what you do and they have got answers for what you do. So at the end of the day it is your job to stop it and that's what we got to do. That's the challenge ahead.
There's danger in all of football, isn't there? So you got to do a good job of executing, playing the blocks. And we're allowed to cut them, too.”

On preparing for an offense you only see once a season…

“It's a challenge. It's why they're really effective offensively, because they're not the norm any more. People don't prepare to play that. When you think about high school football, it used to be that people ran the triple in high school offenses and a lot of the most successful programs in this state had been a part of that. It's slowly gone the other way, where teams, it's almost like a dinosaur, people don't do it any more, so people don't know how to defend it. So it's challenging. The kids on your defense didn't come from high school programs that had to play against it, where, back in the day, they might have done that more often. So that's the game within the game. That's the motivating factor for our players to go out and -- they're trying to win one for the seniors, trying to win one for the University of Georgia and they're playing a unique style of offense and they got to buy into that, they got to embrace it. I think our seniors will. As a matter of fact I know they will, they have already talked to me about some ways we're going to practice and things we're going to do to help with that. So I'm excited about that part and they're ready to take the challenge on.”

On the preparations for playing Georgia Tech prior to this week…

“A lot more than we did last year. We have taken every Monday in the season and we have targeted certain amount of time each Monday, depending upon who our opponent was, towards Tech periods. I felt like you have to familiarize yourself, really the players, if nothing more than your scout team, scout team can only be so efficient doing something they don't do all the time, but they can be as efficient as possible. So those Mondays have been really critical for them, those Mondays have been critical for our young players who haven't been exposed to it. We have worked really hard on that. And then we spent some time in the off week, but the off week we spend time on all of our upcoming opponents but Georgia Tech being one of those, we did work on them.”

On Georgia’s success of playing in Atlanta although it’s difficult to play on the road…

“I think it's been more to do with the fact that Georgia has played well there. I think a lot of the kids are at home, a lot of kids are from that area. I don't really know what to attribute that to. Usually has something to do with the X's and O's and the players involved in the game. I haven't really been part of that series for a long time, so I can't attribute it to anything.”

On the importance of proving Georgia’s red zone defense against Georgia Tech…

“Well it's important, but you got to take all your stats and all your numbers and just throw them out because what we have done in the red zone has zero to do with Georgia Tech. So Georgia Tech will not be concerned with what we do in the red zone because nothing that we have done is indicative of what they will do. You know what I mean? Their offense is completely different. So we have got to play good red zone defense in this game and we did not do that last year, but what we have done up to this point has nothing to do with what's going to transpire on Saturday.”

On his philosophy of the pass rush…

“My philosophy is to get after the quarterback, to affect the quarterback, to make it hard on him to execute. But it's easier in football to hand the ball off to someone and run it than it is to throw it to someone and catch it. So if you don't stop the run, you don't control the run game, you will not be able to stop anything. So, the important thing for us is always to affect the quarterback. This game's completely unique, playing Georgia Tech has nothing to do with that, I'm assuming you're talking about a base philosophy, but the philosophy is to get after the quarterback, the philosophy is to make it difficult on him through coverage, through rush, through everything. But first and second down you have to be able to convert to a pass rush, because you got to be able to stop the run. Our defensive front is built to stop the run, it's not built to rush the passer with a 300-pound man that's playing nose guard. That's not what they're build to do. They have to be able to convert, they got to be able to push the pocket, you got to affect them with disguise, bat balls, and then when you get a chance to get after them, you got to get after them, but that's not really this week.

You always want to, when they pass it, they have got to get after the quarterback, everybody's got to be able to get after the quarterback, ultimately. You want to be able to get sacks, get lost yardage plays, but we have had more TFL's this year than we have been having, so we have changed some in regard to that because a tackle for a loss essentially is a sack, even though it's a run play.”

On Georgia’s run/pass ratio and if the run game will carry the Bulldogs to a championship…

“I think that each game is different. I think each opponent is different. I think that you have a base foundation of balance and balance is what we want. Some of our imbalance this year has been indicated by the games, the scores. If you take one-score games and you do the ratio run-to-pass it's not going to be the same as the games that we have had leads and we're running the clock out. There's a distinct difference in those. So to be able to win a championship you got to have balance. We continue to improve on our balance- our ability to throw the ball down the field, our ability to open things up. But if we open things up and threw the ball down the field, I would beg to question what we're doing with #27 and #1 the rest of the time. So it's a Catch-22 to be balanced, but at the end of the day to win you got to be able to do both and you play really good teams you got to be able to do both. But we have also had some statistics this year that are probably not exactly accurate when you talk about leads in the games.”

On the discipline needed in rivalry games…

“Well you said the word. The word's discipline. It's not about what they do, it's not about anything they say or anything they do before the game. That controls nothing of the outcome of the game. Our focus and concentration is on playing our best football game. Our job is to go over there and get ready to play at noon, get ready to go and get after it and have the best possible plan we can put together to allow our players to be successful. Their focus has to be on executing the plan, not on all the drama with the rivalry.

The leaders have to control the message throughout the week. You've already made a decision on Monday what you're going to do on Saturday when a guy shoves you. And you either make the decision to do the wrong thing or you make the decision to do the right thing. We talk to our players all the time about that. It's something they have to be able to control. They have to have discipline; they have to make good decisions in the heat of the moment. A rivalry is a rivalry, I'll be honest with you, our guys want to win every game. We have a lot of rivalries and this is one of the biggest ones. But our guys have to make good decisions in the heat of the moment, because the heat of the moment's going to happen.”

On Malik Herring’s increasing role on the D-line…

“He's very conscientious about his job. He's very prideful in knowing what to do. He's increased his role throughout the year because he's continued to get better. He works kind of half the day on our scout team and does a good job working down there. He gives good effort and we tell him he earns reps with us by how he performs on the scout team and he's done a good job of that. He had a little more role last week, so he was able to go in and play some. He'll continue to grow that role this week. He's extremely athletic; I think he's a talented young man that's got to continue to get bigger and more physical.”

On the contributions to the program of the seniors who returned for this season…

“I go into each off-season with a plan to talk to the third year guys. I'll be honest with you, you know, that's not, you really shouldn't be leaving after your third year unless you're going to be a first, maybe a second round pick, depending upon the positions. So I think that every year you go into that with that approach and if they understand what's best for them, then they usually handle that the right way. So I'm really proud of these guys that decided to stay, because I think it was the right decision for each one of them individually. That's the most important thing. The next thing is, what have they done for this team? They have been great leaders off the field. I know you see it on the field, but you don't get to see it in the meeting room, you don't get to see it when a guy's late, you don't see it when a guy does some undisciplined penalty out of bounds and they grab the guy. That part is what they bring of setting a standard, the standard that we want to play to, they help set that standard. So the guys that are younger in the room, they will then try to emulate the older guys. And when you have that, you have what you want. To have seniors, usually the best teams in the country, they have seniors, because the seniors have been there the most, they make the least mistakes, they have been through it, they're very calm and that's what our group has been, good leaders for this team.”

On the eye discipline needed for the secondary to avoid deep passes down field…

“Yeah, that's exactly what you just said, eye discipline. It's what got us last year. You don't have good eye discipline, you don't have good eye transfer, they can get you. And they watch every play. They know when you mess one up. It doesn't take them long to figure out, whoops, he's not looking at the right thing, and then they expose you. And you say, well the alternative is don't be so aggressive with them, but you have to stop the run and they do a good job with what they do. It's one of the focuses of this week- is doing my job, executing my job, having great eye discipline, eye transfer. Everybody you talk to that plays them that's one thing they come back to is not giving up the cheap, easy touchdowns. When you watch them play throughout the year, they have hit bomb after bomb after bomb, people have the same problem. So it's an eye discipline thing and you have to play really well on the back end.”

On Lorenzo Carter’s improvements this season…

“Well, biggest thing he's become an every down player. He's gotten a little bigger, gotten more physical, he's been able to play some in nickel packages. We moved him around so that he could play field boundary. He can do different things, he can stand up, match patterns. He's improved that part of his game and that's the part that he probably needed to improve the most and I'm glad he came back to do it.”

On the relationship between Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and their ability to share plays without ego getting involved…

“Well, it gives you a confident coaching staff. Certainly you feel good about either guy being in. They don't have egos, that's the beauty of those two guys. Sony probably could have gone anywhere in the country, just like Nick probably could have. They chose to come together and what started as a really good rivalry has become one of the best friendships in college football. Those two guys deserve every accolade they get if not more and they are what college football's all about. They're unselfish, they're program guys, they represent the university the right way. I mean, when you start talking about ambassadors for this program, they will be ambassadors for a long time.”

On Roquan Smith being named one of the five finalists for the Butkus Award…

“Well I think it says a lot to his overall leadership, the way he's played, the passion and energy he plays with. It says a lot about the defensive front in front of him who have been able to hold people and keep people off of him to allow him to make the plays. He'll be the first to tell you that when he goes unblocked, he's a really good player. Those guys up front deserve a lot of that for taking on 600, 700 pounds a lot of times so that Roquan gets to run free and he's done a tremendous job of leading this defense. He is the signal caller, bell cow, spokesperson, he does a great job of that and no greater honor than to be considered among the best in the country at your position and he's very deserving of that.”

Senior NT John Atkins

One facing the Georgia Tech triple-option offense…

“You have to be disciplined. You have to be eye disciplined. You have to be technique sound.”

On the remaining games this season…

“That’s what a lot of guys came back for. We’re not really thinking about the SEC Championship game, we just have to go out there and play hard.”

On improving Georgia’s red zone defense this year…

“Last year, our whole red zone defense wasn’t that good. That’s been the main objective the whole year, is to get better on our red zone defense.”

On finishing out the season strong…

“It’s all about how you attack the week. You have to come out and be ready to practice.”

Senior OT Isaiah Wynn

On the success of running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb…

“It means a lot. We take pride in that. I’m glad they’re getting to that point, and as an offensive linemen, you couldn’t ask for a better running back duo.”

On motivation for this week’s game…

“Beating Georgia Tech. Just because those are the guys we don’t want to lose to. Of course it’s a big rivalry, it’s rivalry weekend. Definitely not a game you want to lose, whether you’re going to the championship or not.”

On playing his last game in Sanford Stadium against Kentucky…

“It was definitely a good way for me and the senior class to go out and do something we’ve never done, being undefeated in Sanford Stadium and also going undefeated in the East. It was a great feeling."

On sophomore Mecole Hardman flipping field position as a returner…

“It’s awesome. He gives not just the offensive line, but the whole offense in general a good starting point, as opposed to being back by the 20. He’s a dangerous weapon, and any time he gets back there, you know he’s going to make something happen.”

Senior OLB Lorenzo Carter

On the high stakes of each game…

“Every game this season has been important. We just have to make sure we don’t look too far ahead. We need to keep taking it one game at a time. That is what got us here so we are going to keep doing the same thing. The most important team is Georgia Tech this week.”

On improving as a senior…

"I just wanted to be a complete player and an all-around player. I think i’ve done that. I also wanted to become a better leader and I’ve done that too. I’ve been just working on myself as a player.”

On facing the triple-option offense…

“It’s tough. In the triple option, you have to stay focused. You have to read your cues and make sure your eyes are disciplined. We are going to do a good job, because we’ve put emphasis on it. We’ve worked on having eye discipline no matter who we play. We are going to focus on Tech and focus on the triple option.”

On coming back for his senior season…

“There are no regrets. Everyday I come to the locker room and get dressed for practice, I sit back and am thankful that I have the chance to be with my teammates and be in the program. I’m excited.”

On senior leadership…

“It’s all about experience. We all have it and we just want to shine the light onto the younger players. We’ve made mistakes, but we just want to make sure that they don’t make the same mistakes.”

Smith Named 2017 Bednarik Award Finalist

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith has been named one of three finalists for the 2017 Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player.

Smith, a native of Montezuma, joins North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick as finalists. 

The winner of the 23rd Chuck Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 7th.  The formal presentation of the award will be made at the Maxwell Football Club's Awards Gala, which will be held at the Tropicana Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., on March 9, 2018.

Former Dawg All-American David Pollack is the only Georgia player to ever win the Bednarik Award. Smith is already a finalist for the Butkus Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

Smith, a midseason All-American, is on pace to lead the Dawgs in tackles for the second consecutive season with 91 stops through 11 games (8.3 tackles/game) and has one of the team’s eight forced fumbles. He has directed a defense that is ranked as one of the country’s best in Scoring Defense (14.4 pts./game, fourth nationally), Total Defense (276.1 yds./game, fifth nationally), Rushing Defense (105.6 yds./game, sixth nationally) and Pass Defense (170.5 yds./game, 10th nationally).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tech Kickoff Set

UGA Sports Communications

Kickoff for the Saturday, November 25th, game between Georgia and Georgia Tech in Atlanta will be at 12:00 noon and televised by ABC.

Post Game Quotes

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart 

On the win:

“What a great way for these seniors to go out – winning the SEC East by going undefeated against the East. Our seniors have given us tremendous leadership, and I’m happy and proud of them. Our seniors have set the standard and our young players have bought in. It helps to have such great leadership.”

On running the ball: 

“We want to be able to do that on a consistent basis. We want to throw it too, but those 3- and 4-yard runs wear on people.”

On going undefeated against the SEC East: 

“People don’t understand in the SEC, it’s a challenge every week. There are no easy games. No one can walk out and destroy a team in the first half. You just don’t do that.”

On playing Georgia Tech: 

“Tech has a unique offense that you don’t get to play but once a year. It’s very different and you work on it and you try to simulate it. You have to do your job. And we need to do a good job of controlling the ball on offense. … Our scouts will have to be prepared this week to give us the best picture they can.”

On this week’s schedule: 

“We’ll have more time this week with no school. We’ll meet with them and have walkthroughs and help them prepare. We’ll focus on giving thanks and on preparing for Tech.”

On the Georgia fans: 

“Our fans showed out for our seniors. These guys deserved that and I appreciate our fan base for that. … Recruiting is affected immensely by the atmosphere of home games. We want to be the best we can be. Our job is to put a good product out there.”

Offensive Lineman Ben Cleveland 

On earning his first start at right guard: 

“It was great. There was great competition all week throughout practice; a lot of hard-fought battles, a lot of guys moving around at different positions. It felt real nice to go out here for these seniors tonight in my first start and just leaving it out all on the field.”

On feeling any nerves before the game: 

“I mean I was a little bit nervous, I’m not going to lie, but I knew in the end it was all going to come down to my effort and just doing my assignments.”

On his performance: 

“I think I played pretty well. We’ve been working real hard focusing on communication up front on the offensive line. I think we had probably our best game of communication tonight and that’s what helped us win.”

Outside Linebacker Davin Bellamy 

On earning his first start at right guard: 

“It was great. There was great competition all week throughout practice; a lot of hard-fought battles, a lot of guys moving around at different positions. It felt real nice to go out here for these seniors tonight in my first start and just leaving it out all on the field.”

On Kentucky’s only touchdown, which came on a one-yard Benny Snell, Jr. run in the “wildcat” formation... 

“We practiced that wildcat all week. We knew we had a couple fixes here and there. We kind of held them pretty good in the run game besides those ones they kept bouncing. Once we started fitting those right, everything was cool.”

Punter Cameron Nizialek 

On the punt where he was fouled, drawing a 15-yard penalty and extending the Georgia drive towards the Dawgs’ first touchdown: 

“I knew they were probably bringing a lot of pressure, so I know how to get it off pretty quick. I thought I got off a good punt, but the guy came off the backside edge and I think it was a pretty late hit, so I’m glad we got the penalty.”

On that penalty providing the team with a spark: 

“I think it was a big play. We get a 15-yard penalty and we go in and score a touchdown on that to take the lead. I think it was a big play for the team and I’m glad we got the first down out of that.”

On whether Georgia won the battle of field position: 

“Oh, absolutely. They didn’t have any return yards on me today and I think we had a really big return and they had a touchback [punting], so they didn’t have great net punting today. I’m happy with what we did.”

Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops 

On Georgia's overall performance: 

"They put pressure on us all night, in all phases. It's a very physical team, it's very well-coached, and they played like a No.1 team in the country tonight."

On Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel:

"They're exceptional backs, they really are. They're real physical, and they keep you off balance. Dynamic play-makers outside. Really strong, and really good. I have a lot of respect for those two."

On running an offense against Georgia:

"They put a lot pressure on us. We knew we were going to have to throw it on early downs, but a predictable pass, it's tough against them. They get ahead, and they put on a lot of pressure on the way they cover the rush. So that can disrupt any offense."

On the Georgia defense:

"They're long, they're athletic, and good with the rush."

On Jake Fromm's ample time in the pocket:

"He's a good player. They had a lot of time because they do a really nice job of throwing and doubling on early downs as well. It makes them run past, and they protect it, and their linebackers, you have to run up the blocks against them. As you can see, they still rushed the ball for 200 yards."

Quarterback Stephen Johnson 

On tonight’s game: 

“[I’m] sore, pride is a little bit hurt right now. We’re just upset.”

On the pressure from the defense:  

“Yeah they did a lot of things that we knew they were going to do. They’re just really big guys. We saw the same thing against Mississippi State, Florida’s defense as well. You really have to give credit to those guys because they came to play.”

Linebacker Josh Allen

On facing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel:

“You have to tackle. You have to hit them hard. Arm tackles aren’t going to work against them and we did a lot of arm tackling today. We have to work on that a little bit more and get more physical next week.”

Wide Receiver Tavin Richardson 

On Georgia’s defense: 

“[It’s] the same defense as last year. They got better as a unit, playing their assignment, playing their roles better. It was a tough game. At first we thought we had them but they kept scoring and the defense was feeding off the offense and they kept on going.”

On being caught off guard: 

“No they did everything we’ve seen on film from all of the other games we’ve been watching the film. They did the same thing they just played very, very correct. They did their assignment, they knew their assignment, and they kept off the turnovers too.”

Running Back Benny Snell, Jr. 

On the physicality of the defense: 

“They were what we expected them to be. They swarmed to the ball and they’re very similar to Florida. They’re very athletic. They have a good defense. They have a competitive will.”

Post Game Notes

UGA Sports Communications

Monumental Home Finale:

With the 42-13 win over Kentucky, the SEC Eastern Division champion Dawgs became the first UGA team to go undefeated in a season against the SEC East (6-0) since the league split into divisions in 1992. Georgia also became the first team to go undefeated in Sanford Stadium (6-0) in a season since 2012. Thirty-one seniors were recognized prior to kickoff, and with today’s win, this class improved to 38-12 in their career. With the latest win over UK, Georgia holds a series edge of 57-12-2.

Balanced Attack:

During their final game between the hedges, senior tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for five touchdowns and 238 rushing yards in the win over Kentucky. Chubb became only the second Dawg running back in history (Herschel Walker) to rush for 1,000 or more yards in three different seasons after finishing with 15 carries for 151 yards, including scoring runs of eight and a season-long 55 yards. His touchdowns give him 45 TDs in his career (team-leading 12th of the year), moving him to second behind Herschel Walker (52). Chubb has now scored two touchdowns in a game 14 times and gone over the 100-yard mark 23 times in his career. At this point in the season, Chubb has rushed for 1,045 yards.

The Dawgs finished with 504 total yards (381 rushing, 123 passing) and scored 42 points. Michel put Georgia up 21-6 at the 1:51 mark in the second quarter on a 37-yard touchdown run. He finished with 87 yards on 12 carries and three scores. Michel last rushed for three touchdowns in a game as a freshman versus Troy. He stands tied for fifth on Georgia’s all-time all-purpose yards with 3,834 yards. Michel’s first scoring run came at the end of a 12-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 6:21, which is Georgia’s longest TD drive of the year.

Freshman QB Jake Fromm completed the game 9-for-14 for 123 yards with a touchdown and an interception and 18 yards rushing, including a career-long 21-yarder. Senior WR Javon Wims led the Dawgs’ receiving attack with a career-high six catches for 83 yards and a score. Wims is now tied for the team lead with junior WR Terry Godwin with five touchdown catches this season.

Dawg ‘D’: 

The Georgia defense held Kentucky to just six points on two field goals and 140 yards (53 on the ground) in the first half and UK added only a touchdown in the second half and finished with 262 yards of total offense. UK came in averaging 27.9 points/game and 361 yards of total offense. The Wildcats were 3-for-12 (25%) on third downs. The defense kept the Wildcats to a field goal on their first possession after the Kentucky drive started at the Georgia 32-yard line following a turnover. The Dawgs held Kentucky to just 12 yards on six plays before the Wildcats connected on a 37-yard field goal. Junior ILB Roquan Smith led UGA with nine stops, including a sack.

Starters: 

Redshirt freshman RG Ben Cleveland started for the first time. This marks the 15th first-time starter that Georgia has had this season. Sophomore DE David Marshall got his first nod of the year (fifth of his career) on defense.

Turnovers: 

Georgia is +2 in Turnover Margin this season and even on the day. Jake Fromm threw his fifth interception on Georgia’s first possession at the 32-yard line. Kentucky scored a field goal on the ensuing possession. In the third quarter, senior DB Aaron Davis had his first interception of the year (fifth of his career) on the Dawg 12-yard line. The Dawgs scored a touchdown on their next possession.

Opponents have forced 13 turnovers and turned them into 41 points while the Dawgs have forced 15 turnovers and registered 55 points.

Seniors Lead Dawgs Past Kentucky, 42-13

UGA Sports Communications

Senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 238 yards and five touchdowns to lead the seventh-ranked Dawgs to a 42-13 win against Kentucky in the 2017 home finale at Sanford Stadium Saturday evening. 

The Southeastern Conference Eastern Division champion Dawgs improve to 10-1 overall and 7-1 in the SEC. This squad also became the first Georgia team to go undefeated in a season against the rest of the SEC East with a perfect 6-0 mark. 

With Saturday’s win on Senior Day, the current Georgia senior class improved to 38-12 in their careers, including an unblemished record at home this season.

“What a great way for these seniors to go out – winning the SEC East by going undefeated against the East,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “Our seniors have given us tremendous leadership, and I’m happy and proud of them. Our seniors have set the standard and our young players have bought in. It helps to have such great leadership.”

Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm threw an interception on Georgia’s first possession of the game, setting the Wildcats up deep in Dawg territory. Kentucky capitalized on the opportunity with a 37-yard field goal from Austin MacGinnis. 

The Dawgs could get nothing going on their next offensive series, until Kentucky roughed punter Cameron Nizialek to give Georgia a fresh pair of downs at its own 34-yard line. Fromm marched his team down the field on a 12-play, 75 yard drive capped off by an eight-yard touchdown rush by Chubb. 

Blake Bone hauled in a 45-yard pass on UK’s next possession to set up another field goal — this time a 35-yarder form MacGinnis to put the score at 7-6 in the Dawgs’ favor at the end of the first quarter. 

Georgia’s offense started clicking in the second quarter as the Dawgs put together two scoring drives to take a 21-6 lead at the half. One score came through the air and the other on the ground when Javon Wims caught a 27-yard TD pass from Fromm and Michel bounced it outside for a 37-yard TD rush. 

Kentucky’s eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter made it a one possession game as Benny Snell Jr. knocked it in from one-yard out to put the score at 21-13. It took just six plays on Georgia’s next drive for the Dawgs to get back on the scoreboard. A 21-yard Chubb rush set his team up deep in UK territory as Michel capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown. 

Chubb was not done. The senior surged over left tackle to start the fourth quarter and raced 55 yards down the field to put him over 1,000 yards for the season as Georgia went up 35-13. 

Michel added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter and the Dawgs left Sanford Stadium with a 42-13 victory. 

Georgia now heads to Atlanta to close out the regular season against Georgia Tech next Saturday.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Smith Named 2017 Nagurski Finalist

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith has been named one of five finalists for the 2017 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

Smith, a native of Montezuma, Ga., joins North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa middle linebacker Josey Jewell and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver as finalists. 

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet will be held on Monday, December 4, at the Charlotte Convention Center.  Dawg head coach Kirby Smart will be the keynote speaker at the banquet.

Former Dawg and NFL veteran Champ Bailey has been Georgia’s only winner of the honor in 1998.  Another former Dawg and current Kansas City Chief linebacker, Justin Houston, was a finalist for the honor in 2010.  Also, former Georgia All-American and current ESPN announcer David Pollack was a finalist in 2002 and 2004.

Smith, already a midseason All-American and Bednarik Award semifinalist, is on pace to lead the Dawgs in tackles for the second consecutive season with 82 stops through 10 games (8.2 tackles/game) and has one of the team¹s seven forced fumbles. He has directed a defense that is ranked as one of the country¹s best in Scoring Defense (14.5 pts./game, fifth nationally), Rushing Defense (103.8 yds./game, fifth nationally), Total Defense (277.5 yds./game, fifth nationally) and Pass Defense (173.7 yds./game, 11th nationally).

Wednesday Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs continued preparations for their upcoming Southeastern Conference finale against Kentucky by conducting a two-hour workout in full pads Wednesday.

The 7th-ranked Dawgs (9-1, 6-1) will square off against the Wildcats (7-3, 4-3) this Saturday on CBS at 3:39 p.m. It will mark the final home game for Georgia’s formidable group of seniors, who can post their third season of double-figure wins in four years with a victory over UK.

The Dawgs will also be chasing another unprecedented milestone this Saturday. ‘’We’re excited to have the chance to do something no Georgia team has ever done, and that’s to go undefeated against the East,’’ head coach Kirby Smart said. ‘’That’s a big part of the motivation for our seniors. They want to finish it off right in their last home game.’’

A group that Smart calls ‘’a really special senior class’’ includes some record-setting players. Most prominent among them are running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who already rank as the second and fifth most prolific ground gainers in school history. Safety Dominick Sanders needs one more interception to tie the school record for most in a career (16). He already owns the UGA mark for career interception return yards.

Dawg defenders will most likely have their hands full with a productive Kentucky offense, led by quarterback Stephen Johnson. ‘’He’s really athletic,’’ Smart says. ‘’He does a really good job of extending plays. In some ways, he reminds me of (Josh) Dobbs from Tennessee, who improved as a passer while he was in the SEC. I think Stephen Johnson throws it a little better than Dobbs and does a good job of knowing when to pull it down and take off, versus when to read the coverage and throw the ball.’’

Following are some excerpts from post-practice player interviews on Wednesday:

Tight End Isaac Nauta

On the team’s focus this week after the Auburn game: 

‘’Our main thing is just to keep pushing, keep chopping. You can’t look back on that (Auburn) and focus on it. You’ve just gotta learn from it and come back stronger.’’

On QB Jake Fromm’s approach this week: 

 ‘’He’s been good. He’s always got a positive attitude, a positive outlook, so I think he’s been doing a good job. We’ve had two good practices, three good practices, really, coming off the Auburn game.’’

Anything the tight ends can do as a unit to help Fromm? 

‘’Just playing better overall. With a team like Georgia, you’re gonna get everybody’s best. Especially late in the year, people are fighting for spots, so you’re going to get everybody’s best. We’ve got to be ready to perform every week.’’

What have the past few days been like, in the wake of the Auburn game? 

"Obviously, we had a bus ride back to get it off our minds and put it to rest. But you’ve just got to move on from those things and learn from them. Just grind and get back to work. It’s all you can do.’’

What different things are you trying to do this week to improve the play at the line of scrimmage? 

‘’Just focusing on the small details. It just comes down to technique, want-to, and just making sure you’re where you are supposed to be at all times. That was our biggest thing. We just had to clean up some finer details that, you know, could have popped off some bigger runs or a bigger pass. So it all comes down to small things, really.

‘’They outplayed us, plain and simple. That’s the way it was, but like I said, we learned from it and we don’t ever want to have that feeling again. So we’ve come out to work this week and want to put together a good one against Kentucky.’’

Wide receiver Terry Godwin

On the team’s approach this week: 

‘’We’re just doing the same thing we’ve been doing all year. We’re out there being physical and doing what we’re supposed to do.’’

On what you said to Mecole Hardman after the muffed punt: 

‘’I just told him that he’s got to have a short-term memory with things like that because stuff like that can affect your whole game and the rest of your season. So you just want to let stuff go. Be better on the next play. Do your best.

‘’He (Hardman) is awesome. As a young kid, it’s probably still lingering in him. But it’s always good to hear it from an older guy, or somebody you trust, to help get it out of your system. It’s happened to everybody. We’ve all messed up and you feel like it’s cost your team a game or something like that. It’s happened to me before and I told him the exact same thing. You’ve just got to forget about it. Have a short-term memory.’’

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs continued preparations for their upcoming Southeastern Conference contest with Kentucky by conducting a two-hour workout Tuesday.

The following are comments from Georgia head coach Kirby Smart after Tuesday’s practice as he said the players displayed really good enthusiasm and were competitive as they get ready for a physical game with the Kentucky Wildcats.

How much does quarterback Stephen Jackson factor in to what Kentucky likes to do offensively?

“He’s a major factor. He can pull the ball and run at any time. I think he makes really good decisions on when to pull the ball. They are not all designed runs; they just give him the option to pull it. He’s improved immensely from the time he’s got there as a passer. He’s a much better passer this year. They’ve got a really good scheme. I think Eddie Gran (offensive coordinator) does a really good job.”

Were you happy with the tackling in practice today after saying you weren’t happy with it last Tuesday?

“I think I mentioned I haven’t been happy with the tackling the entire time. I think to be a physical football team, you have to practice physical and hit people and thud and wrap up. We’ve got pretty good backs. There’s not been a day that I’ve been really happy with our tackling. There’s been some games that I’ve been more pleased than others but not practice. We have to continue to work on it and players have to hold each other accountable.”

What adjustments can you make with the defensive front or is it as simple as getting back out there and just trying to be more physical than the other team?

“A big thing is going to play the next game. You got to strike, work on technique. You have to go back to work and that’s what we’re doing and continue to work on getting off blocks. Every football game comes down to blocking and tackling because we all got plays. Who is going to block and tackle better?”

How has Mecole Hardman done going from defense to receiver plus serving as a boost in handling kicks and punts too?

“He has been a great boost. As far as what he can handle. I know there are a lot of college football players who are the returners for punts and kickoffs. That’s not a concern. He usually runs 8,000 yards at track practice, and we’re just asking him to run about four or five hundred in a game. I think he can handle the workload, and the ball is not real heavy so he can carry it and he’s doing pretty good.”

After a game where you struggle on offense, do coaches have to fight against trying to reinvent the wheel or do you keep doing what you’ve been doing?

“You’re always trying to reinvent the wheel. You look for new ideas, new plays but you can’t throw everything away and start anew. You got certain plays you run and you’ve run them since camp. You try to window-dress them some different ways. You try to execute better, protect better, give the quarterback a chance, maybe give him some easier throws but you’re not trying to change everything.”

The SEC is always very competitive and what does it say about your team that it has a chance to go undefeated against the East Saturday?

“Our goal is to win every game. That’s the next step. These seniors have an opportunity to do something that no Georgia team has ever done and that’s beat every team in the East, and that’s the goal, the goal to send them out on top at Sanford Stadium.”

The Dawgs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) play host to the Wildcats (7-3, 4-3 SEC) Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Kentucky Preview

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed the upcoming game against Kentucky with media on Monday. The Dawgs take on the Wildcats at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Sanford Stadium. 

Smart and the Dawgs offered the following comments on Monday. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart 

Opening comments … 

“We are excited about honoring the military and all they do for us. Serving our country certainly makes it a great place to live, so we are happy to honor them. Obviously our seniors, being Senior Day, it is the last home game for a group of guys that have been really special to me and they have been really special for this Dawg Nation and the legacy they leave behind. A lot of them had opportunities to come out, and it will be their last chance. I really want to challenge our fanbase to come out and support these guys to end it right at home. We have an opportunity to do some things that teams have not done around here before, and they can do that by finishing it right Saturday. 

“We are playing a really good Kentucky team. I think Mark Stoops is a really good head coach. He has done a tremendous job up there. The energy and enthusiasm of that game last year when we played up there was incredible to me. It’s not really how I remembered when I was here before as a player. Their offensive staff does a great job. They have a senior quarterback (Stephen Johnson) who is playing really well and one of the best backs in the SEC (Benny Snell, Jr.), a veteran offensive line group and some big receivers. Defensively, they play a similar style to us — big guys, 3-4 defense — and they do a really good job as well. So, the challenge is in front of us with a great Kentucky team rolling in here that I know they want nothing more than to come in here and try to prove they are the best team in the East. We get an opportunity to play them at home, it will be a Senior Day, so we are excited about it.” 

On Kentucky running back Benny Snell, Jr. and similarities with Auburn’s rushing attack … 

“They have some similar plays. They might present them differently. I think Eddie (Gran) does a really good job of each week having a different presentation of what people label ‘wildcat.’ Then looking at the picture of what Kerryon (Johnson) did in that package — Auburn does it a little different than them, but Kentucky does a really good job. Their percentage of ‘wildcat’ based on this year was actually higher last year versus us, and that is usually predicated on how much success. If it is working, you do it more. They had a couple of drives last year, particularly one at the end, they ran almost the whole series in the ‘wildcat.’ They are good at it. They are physical. Our kids talked last year about that was the most physical game they played in from a defensive standpoint because it was so much grinding and hitting. They pride themselves on that, so it will be a great challenge for us. When we did not stop the run real well last week, we are getting an opportunity this week to play a team that is hell-bent on running the ball.” 

On how the team has responded to Saturday’s loss … 

“First thing I have seen is guys came in here with a good attitude yesterday ready to work, good spirits, leaders talking and communicating. I got to be around the players and eat with them yesterday. These players they will respond the right way. They are made of the right stuff and that is all we can ask them to do is to come in with a really good attitude, get to work. I expect them to do that. I am excited about moving on getting a chance to go get to work on Kentucky today. That is what they have to do. The focus for us is totally on the Big Blue because we have to go out here and stop these guys.”

On if Saturday’s game was also a wake-up call for the coaching staff … 

“Anytime you get a chance to look at everything from that standpoint, there’s a lot of good things that happened in the kicking game but there’s a lot of bad things that happened. It was not like they went out there and whipped us in special teams. It’s a situation where we have to continue to get better. We think of special teams as one of our best weapons and we want to be aggressive in our special teams and use it as a weapon. Well, today is a chance for us to go out and get better on special teams, and we are going to try to improve that. It’s the same thing on offense and defense — today is another opportunity for us to go out and improve and get better and develop our team to get better so that we play better in this next game.” 

On the concern of his team’s tackling during the Auburn game … 

“I have been really concerned about our tackling all year. I have not been happy with it anytime. You measure tackling by how many one-on-one situations you get in and how many of those you win Typically, our ratio has been the same all year. It has not been real good. People measure things differently. When there’s two guys standing there to tackle a guy and one of them makes it, it’s a whole lot different than a one-on-one situation. We lost a lot of one-on-one situations but we lost a lot of one-on-one situations throughout the year. When you go to tackle a back like Snell and King and these back they have — they have some good backs, so we have to improve in that area. That has been the case all year long. Good thing is we get to practice against some pretty good backs in our practices. We get to thud them, we do not get to tackle them, but we have to do a better job for sure.”

On if fundamental flaws were exposed against Auburn … 

“I will be honest with you — I am worried about Kentucky. I really am. I know you want to ask about that and focus on that. Our concern — we had mistakes. We had really undisciplined penalties. Things I talked about in the postgame presser. But, our players, we have told them we have moved on. We have to go get ready for Kentucky and that is really where our focus is.” 

On how a loss benefits a team … 

“I think you refocus, you recenter — like we talked about earlier. You have to really focus on the things you did not do well and the things you do. It is not any different after a loss or a win because after every win we have come in here and said we have to refocus and recenter on the new opponent, new team and not let that carry over. It is no different this time. We have to refocus, recenter on who we are about to play. We have to improve the things we messed up. Every game we have won, we have had areas of concern for me. So, we have to continue to do that and our players have to kind of embrace that and understand that Kentucky is the target. We have to go out and play our best game because they have a really good football team.” 

On the SEC having three interim coaches and is this a trend with an early signing period now … 

“It may very well be. It is nothing that I have really thought long and hard about. It could be the norm. I mean obviously they are going to have to make a decision really fast because that signing day is going to be right upon the end of the season. It is not something I have really concerned myself with.” 

On how big of a concern fatigue is and how to fix it…

“I don’t know that you can concern yourself. You think about it everyday. We measure it everyday with science and GPS numbers. We looked at the data from the game the other night to see how many guys hit max velocities and are they still running fast. We've averaged anywhere from 20-25 over 19 miles per hour and that held true the other night. We continue to measure those things and talk to the players. Recovery is a big part of what we talk about.  Sleep. Rest. Getting their legs back at the end of the week. I’m a big believer in work. I’m a big believer in practice. And we’re going to continue to do that. This team knows what brought them here and we have to continue to do that.”

On his message to the team this week…

“We do it through the organization, top down.  We talk to the strength staff, the support staff, Jonas’ [Jennings] staff, coaching staff— all the people that get to be around the players day to day.  We talk about how we are going to approach them. The approach is— it starts from the man in the mirror. It starts with me, myself. It starts with each one of them and they have to look at themselves internally and say what can I do better to help this team moving forward. That starts this week. What do I have to do this week as an O-lineman to play my best game? What do I have to do as a secondary player to play my best game. What do I have to do to be more disciplined and not make mistakes or make really poor decisions and lose focus. Everybody focuses on that. We preach the message and a lot of that demeanor is created through the body language of the coaching staff and the training staff and the players. The leaders. How do they approach it? How does Roquan Smith go out and practice? How does Nick Chubb? How does Sony Michel? A lot of guys will be looking to them and how they respond is kind of the right way to go about it. 

On discipline for penalties…

“There’s not a lot you can do at the time. Those decisions, I always tell people, are made long before the moment happens. You’ve made your mind up, if a guy shoves you late or pushes you late, that you’re going to retaliate or you’re not. You’ve made your mind up that when you have an opportunity to hit a guy on the sideline that you’re going to do it or you’re not. The decisions are made long before it actually happens and you have to make sure they make the right decisions. There were a lot of time that we didn’t the other night.”

On what this senior class has meant to Georgia…

“This is a special group. I think it’s a special group because they have really good leadership. They have an opportunity to win what may be their 38th, possibly 39th, game of their career, which could rank them right in the top-10 senior classes to ever play here. If they can pull that off. The big thing for me is that everybody else on the team acknowledges that it’s their last home game and that you prepare and play as if it was yours. I know what that last home game in Sanford Stadium means. It’s the one you remember the most. These guys have meant a lot to this program, meant a lot to me personally, meant a lot to the staff, and they’ve meant a lot to this university. I think we all owe it to them, as a fan base and as a coaching staff and as a team, to make sure that we give them our best effort.  

On the improvements of the offensive line compared to against Auburn…
"Some good, some bad, some ugly.  Mostly the latter.  But we’re moving on to Kentucky.”

On Gus Malzahn’s comments post game…
“I’ll be honest with you, when you perform the way they did on the field you earn the right to say really whatever you want, so I don’t get into what Gus says and he probably doesn’t get into what I say.”

On the relationship between Jake Fromm and Javon Wims and their ability to make plays…
“He’s done a good job of that.  I think he’s improved probably immensely at attacking the ball and not letting the ball get into his body.  He’s really become a hands receiver, which is what you want.  He does a good job in the 50-50 ball.  He reacts, responds, snatches. Through a lot of the drills that Coach Coley does with him he’s been able to do that.  Recently he’s been able to make some big catches.  That’s been a big help for us because you take some those 50-50 balls out of these games and there are some tight ball games that he’s been able to win for us.  We need some more of that.”

On his evaluation of Trenton Thompson…

“I really don’t think the injuries are affecting Trenton at this point. He’s healthy— practicing good, playing good. I think across the D-line as a whole, I’m not talking about Trenton, I think we can play better. We have to strike and get off blocks, but every player on our team can do that. It’s easy to look at a lot of the things that reared their head in the last game, they were in the game before and the game before that. You may not have noticed them because the results weren’t the same. We as a coaching staff have been saying for a while that we have to fit runs better. We have to tackle better, we have to strike and get off blocks better. It only comes to your sights when the results aren’t the same, but we have to do a better job up front of striking and getting off blocks.”

On the opportunity to go undefeated at home this season…

“I will say that it is important to the senior class that they finish it off the right way. They want to be one of the first teams to win the SEC East and beat every team in the East. That’s a first for them and the chance to go undefeated at home, which hasn’t happened since 2012 or 2011. They want to do those things and ear mark, especially after last year’s home schedule, that’s important to them. I wouldn’t say it’s a written down goal of any kind, but it’s important to the senior class to do it the right way. 

On Mecole Hardman’s play on special teams…

“I’d agree with you there. I hate [the muff] for him because he works really hard. I’m in my office ready to watch tape and he’s still out there catching kicks and catching punts after practice. It’s important to him that he does it. We have to do a good job of simulating some of those kicks and making him catch the hard ones. He’s doing a tremendous job and the units around him are really doing well. I think if you ask the other coaches in the league, they’re saying ‘good grief, they have all these people blocked’, so there’s some space there and he’s had a good opportunity to make some plays.  He has taken advantage of that. I’m not disappointed in anything he’s done. I think he’s gaining more confidence and he’s making some plays in the kicking game. That was no more evident than Saturday.  A lot of that was people getting hats on people. We work hard on that. I think that’s one of our best weapons. It opens us up to, you know, people want to fake kicks. We have to rep a ton more fakes because they’re like they just assume fake it than kick it to the guy because they’re back there returning it. That has been a positive for us, even though we did not play well on special teams because of the muff, because of the penalty, but if you take that out there’s a lot of positive in the kicking game.”

Graduate NT John Atkins

On thoughts going into his last game at Sanford Stadium and whether it has gone fast or slow…

“I was thinking about that yesterday. I was thinking it was going to be my last Dawg Walk. It is just unreal that it is my last game in the stadium.”

On bouncing back from the loss…

“We came in yesterday and got some work in. Everybody has the same attitude. We aren’t walking around with the “poor me” attitude. We are just focused on bouncing back because we are still in it. It is the same thing as a win, we get 12 hours then you have to get ready for the next team."

On facing Kentucky’s Wildcat Formation with Benny Snell…

 “The Wildcat is always challenging, because you never know where the ball is going. You also have to be more patient. Every time a team has success in an area, another team is going to try to do the same.”

Senior WR Javon Wims

On moving on after the loss and if it affects motivation…

“We are moving forward and focusing on Kentucky. They are a very good football team that we are getting ready to face this weekend. Naturally you are motivated by a loss or a win but we are motivated by each other. We are just going to get back to doing what we do best. We are going to go back in the lab, we work, we grind and go back to that physical brand of football that we know."

On senior night…

“Personally, the seniors mean so much to me. I came in my first year and they embraced me. They treated me like everybody else and as if I’m one of them. It meant so much to me to have them like brothers and be a senior with them.”

On quarterback Jake Fromm’s trust in you winning the 50/50 balls…

“It feels good that he trusts me enough to throw the ball up for me to make a play even when I’m not even looking sometimes. He is one of my good friends on and off the field.”

Senior TE Jeb Blazevich

On the outcome at Auburn...

"It was just, I guess, a reality check. One of those things, where at the end of the day, the coaches have what we need to fix ready and geared up on film, and we just need to get back to work. That's the only thing we can do. All we can do is fix our attitude and adjust what we need to adjust, and get back after it. All we're worried about now is Kentucky."

On the attitude of Georgia going into Kentucky...

"Really, we don't have enough time. We don't have the luxury of time to sit around and feel bad for ourselves. It's something where we can't mope around, we have work today. I think that's the main message, it's get back to work, that's all we can do."

On his last game in Sanford Stadium...

"It's crazy. It's going to be my last game. A lot of sentimental feelings. I'm feeling very grateful and blessed to be here. Thankful for God for all the experiences I've had here. I'm excited to strap it on one more time."

On the legacy of the senior class...

"Everything we want to accomplish is in front of us. We obviously have a lot of work to do, and that starts today. But, one loss doesn't define our season, and everything's still out there for us, and so we're still trying to write our legacy and determine, 'What can I do this Monday that will help achieve that?'"

Graduate DB Aaron Davis

On one of his favorite memories...

"It has to be my first game. I had never experienced anything like that. Coming out of high school, and then coming to Sanford Stadium to play Clemson in a night game. It was a huge game, the stadium was unbelievable. It felt like an earthquake, the ground was shaking out there. That was one of my favorite moments so far."

On the legacy of the senior class...

"I just feel like we have so much ahead of us, we've just got to go out there and take care of business, in order for those things to be possible for us. As long as we continue to do the things we need to do, and be able to regroup and not let one game define us, we should be able to continue to be better."

On how to defend a wildcat offense...

"The probability of them passing definitely goes down, but the probability of a big play happening when they pass the ball is probably huge, because a lot of guys get sucked in on the run. Any time a team's in wildcat, you have to be on your P's and Q's and know that you have to play physical, number one, because they're most likely going to run the ball. But also keep the eyes on your man in case they try to do some trick play or pass off of it."