Sunday, December 29, 2019

Dawgs Hold First Sugar Bowl Practice

UGA Sports Communications

The Georgia football team practiced for 90 minutes in helmets and shorts at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday. The Dawgs will face Baylor in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, January 1st.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl will kick off at 8:45 p.m. EST and will be televised by ESPN.

Following Saturday’s practice, Georgia’s players were scheduled to attend the NBA game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Indiana Pacers.

Also after the practice, several players were made available for interviews.

Eli Wolf, Senior, Tightend

“Baylor’s got a really good football team. We’ve got to keep preparing for them and we know we’ll have to play really well to beat them. We have a lot of respect for their players and coaches. It’s going to be a fight. … Jake Fromm has been super steady all year in an offense with a lot of changes, a lot of injuries. He’s been constant and confident for us. It’s huge having a leader like that who can take control of the offense and get everybody lined up in their assignments. He’s done a great job with that.”

Jake Camarda, Sophomore, Punter

“This is the Sugar Bowl and this is a big game for us. We’re going to come out and play the best we can. It’s still a game for this season, not next season. We’ll look to next year after this game. We have great guys on this team, and we’re looking forward to playing this game.”

Tyson Campbell, Sophomore, Defensive Back

J.R. Reed was a big brother of mine. He taught me a lot and I paid attention to everything he told me. He’s one of those guys who will forever be remembered at UGA, so I’m happy for him. Right now, we’re focusing on the guys who are here trying to win this game. We’ve got a lot of depth in the DB room. The guys here have prepared hard and are ready to play well. I’m not worried at all.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Signing Day Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart talked with media regarding the 2020 early signing period and the upcoming Allstate Sugar Bowl against Baylor during a press conference on Wednesday.

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement …

“I'll open with excited for an opportunity to play Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. I haven't gotten to address that other than the media teleconferences we had. We're four practices in, and we've got a lot of respect for this team. When you watch them on tape, they really play hard, toughness, competitive. I think Coach Matt Rhule does a tremendous job. The turnaround he's been able to do there is incredible. They've played in a lot of really tough games this year, got a lot of respect for their conference, having played Texas from their conference last year, and they do a fabulous job.

Our guys, we really just kind of started on them specifically today, but we've had three or four practices that were more fundamental based, and the coaches have been working towards getting ready for Baylor. So excited about the opportunity to play those guys, and I know our players are too.

Next thing would be Signing Day today, which is kind of a weird timing for everything because we've still got the February signing date coming up, but we were able to address a lot of our needs today. I really feel like, when you talk about wide receiver and you talk about offensive line, what we've got leaving and what we need on our roster, we were able to attack some of those areas and still have work left to be done hopefully in both those areas.

We've got a really good strong group. We've got some really strong academic kids, which matters a lot to me at this university, and some great competitors. A couple guys, I think four guys played for state championships. Two guys won state championships. I'm really excited about this class. It's not completely done yet, but obviously, a lot of the pieces are in place. With that, I'll open it up.”

On if he had interest in Mike Bobo and thoughts on the offensive coordinator position …

“Yeah, I talk to Mike often, and we're really good friends. But as far as any conversation about coming to coach at the University of Georgia, no. He and I conversed about what he was going to do when he was let go, but that was during the week of the LSU game. As far as any other changes or anything like that, that's decided after the bowl game, after we look back at the whole year. We're working really hard right now on Baylor, on giving our kids an opportunity to play, and that's really where our focus is.”

On the wide receiver signees …

“Yeah. I'm not allowed to comment on anyone but the guys that have the paperwork in, but really excited about those guys. We've been excited about Justin Robinson for a long time. Marcus Rosemy too. They both came to our camp over the summer and were as competitive of kids as you've seen out there in one-on-ones, and both of them had good senior years, and both of them won state championships. Arian's a kid who's got a lot of speed. It's pretty obvious he can run fast. He wants to be able to run track here, which we've been very open to and had success with Mecole doing that, so that was a big selling point for him. We had a lot of other kids join us today that we think are going to help us.”

On wide receiver signees Marcus Rosemy and Arian Smith …

“Yeah, I don't know if Arian would say he's South Florida. He's the Lakeland area, which to those kids is not really all the way down in South Florida. But I think Coach Cortez Hankton did a tremendous job with Marcus and his family. We've got great relationships at that high school. Jason Taylor is a coach there, a guy that I was with at the Dolphins, Coach Harriet and Coach Coley have had great relationships for a long time. Those relationships help, but ultimately Georgia sells those kids on coming here. When they come up on visits, when they come up and see the place, the academics, coming to camp the relationships that are formed have been big on commits. And those wideouts know that we have a need. They know they have an opportunity to play.”

On quarterback signee Carson Beck and conversations with Jake Fromm regarding coming back …

“Yeah, start with Carson. Excited as I can be. This guy's come to camp since maybe his ninth grade year to our place, has grown up and gotten better with each and every year. He came this summer, hung out with our guys. Can't say enough about Carson and his family, the competitive nature that's inside him. He's been a winner. He won a state championship last year at Mandarin, which has probably never been done before, I think at their school. So he led those guys to that and did a great job.

As far as any others, we're looking for all positions. We've got some spots left, and we're looking at every position out there to sign best available players. And at that second signing, quarterback is not out of question, but it's not necessarily something we have to do.

As far as Jake, we do with Jake exactly what we do with every player on our team. We bring him in. We talk to teams. I talk to general managers. I talk to organizations. We get information. We give those kids that information. This is a time when they're able to do that, and then when we get closer to the Bowl game, we put it away, and then we come back and revisit it, and we've done those things for Jake.”

On if he expects D’Andre Swift, James Cook, Brian Herrien and Prather Hudson to play in Sugar Bowl …

“All that is still to be determined. All those guys healthy right now. Swift is recovering from his injury, but he's out there practicing, and he's doing everything we ask.”

On if James Cook will receive any additional punishment and any other news on players not playing in the Sugar Bowl …

“With Cook, it will start with the internal discipline we have, and as far as anybody else, we're still gathering information as far as anything grade-wise, any of the stuff we would have, we're still gathering all of that from school.”

On running back signee Kendall Milton and if Carson Beck will join the team for bowl practice …

“Yeah, we're hoping to get Carson here for Bowl practice as soon as possible. Kendall, on the other hand, I think was attracted to the fact that he knew he had the potential of two guys leaving with Herrien being a graduate and being a senior, and then with the likelihood of Swift possibly coming out, he's sitting there going, you know what, there's an opportunity there. I think any time, when you look at it as a running back and you say they could be losing two guys, very similar to years past when we had Sony and Nick, you're always exploring those options, and we certainly felt that Kendall comes from a really strong family. Dell formed a great relationship with their family, and they came and visited all the schools across the Southeast and really liked what Georgia had to offer.

I'm super pleased to get him. He was one of our leaders in the class, and I'm excited about what he's going to bring to the table.”

On what Matt Luke brings to his staff …

“We were really fortunate and excited to get him. The minute that I found out about Sam Pittman, he's the first guy that came to my mind and wanted to visit with, I've had a lot of respect for the job he's done, everywhere he's been from the years he was at Duke. He kind of came up under Coach David Cutcliffe and played for him and has been a good friend of mine for a long time. Got a lot of respect for what he does, how he does it. I've been in SEC meetings now with him for a while. Very sharp, very intelligent guy. That's kind of come to the realization on the road. When you go into home with him, he's got command. He's got presence. Kids like him. His team there, all the guys on their team loved him as a head coach. To do what he's done in the short amount of time he's done it is pretty remarkable because it was a tough timing situation.

So happy for Sam and Jamie and the opportunity they've gotten. He's come in, Matt's come in and put the Band-Aid on the bleeding and done a tremendous job and turned those three guys around pretty quick. We'll continue to recruit the others.”

On reflecting on the offense and the philosophy and scheme…

“Yes. We've looked at it. But we want to score points. I mean, you guys want a simple answer like it's just going to poof and happen. It's all philosophy. It's all the plays that are called and the play designs. It's not everything. There's a lot of things that go into having a successful offense, and we need to be better. I think everybody acknowledges that. And that's what we're working on really hard.”

On the impact of Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson declaring for the NFL on recruiting and the Sugar Bowl against Baylor… 

“Any time you lose two, one -- probably the first round pick, one potential first round pick, it's tough, right? Those kids have an opportunity to go do something they wanted to do all their lives, and we give them the information, and we let them make the best decision for them.

For us, it's not like this is something new. We've known this was the potential to happen with these two guys all year. We knew it as much as last year. So you're always trying to look ahead, plan ahead, develop players, develop your roster. Those guys have been out games, both of them, in the last two years, so we've had to play without them.

There will be challenges, absolutely, and there will also be opportunity. With opportunity, a lot of times guys get to answer the bell. We're going to get an opportunity to find out some other guys that can play the position. A lot of guys have been working really hard all year to develop that are going to get opportunities in this game.”

On the possibility of pursuing more quarterbacks for this class and the potential of graduate transfers… 

“Yeah, we don't ever take anything out of the realm. I mean, when we have graduate transfers in the past, that's like a constant study. We're looking at that for every position. Guys, it's simple. You want to make your roster as best as you can. That's our job as coaches. So we're in constant pursuit of every opportunity we have. There's nothing that's off limits in regards to recruiting or making your roster better.”

On the impact of the bowl performance for recruiting signing in the later signing period… 

“Yeah, maybe. They may look at it as an opportunity. But what's important for our university is that we go play the best football game we can and that we have a really positive attitude and outlook on it and we've had four great practices. Our kids have been tremendous in those four, and we've been really fast, physical, and fundamental, and we've been doing it quick.

But what those guys that you're talking about in the future are going to make their decision based on usually pertains to what opportunity they have to play, what our institution offers from an education standpoint. I don't think it's all based on the outcome of one game.”

On if previous comments of not bringing players to bowl games that are not engaged means if they're not playing in the game, they're not going to travel and if there has been a team-wide sentiment that what happened last year isn't going to happen again…

“No, I think we have good leaders on this team, though. A lot of guys have addressed the attitude and the practice habits and all those things. Like I just said, they've been really great. They've been awesome. They've handled that really well.

As far as going to the Bowl game or not, those two guys have been tremendous. They've been awesome. They let us know what they're going to do. They're working out. They're getting ready and preparing for the draft. We don't really have a decision to be made there.”

On getting a recruit out of California for Georgia for the first time since 2006 and if there’s an emphasis on getting more out-of-state players…

“It hasn't been an emphasis. It's been more of what are our needs and who can we get? We try to go out and evaluate and find the best character, football player, students -- all of those factors for us are important. Kendall certainly checks the box on all those, and he just happens to be from California. That's not a prerequisite. We want to get the best football players we can and student-athletes we can.”

On Ben Cleveland’s status …

“Cannot confirm that, no, because there's still things out there. So nothing's final yet.”

On how the entire signing class will shape out after the signing day in February… 

“Yeah, I can only comment on the ones that have signed today. That's all I'm allowed to comment on. I'm excited about the ones that signed today and looking forward to finishing off the class with another great class. I'm very pleased with what we brought in today, and I'm very pleased with what we've got coming forward in February, but I can't talk about it.”

On how many of Wednesday’s signees are expected to early enroll…

“I think we'll have six or seven mid-year enrollees, but some won't be here for bowl practice. Some have elected to play in the All-Star games. Some have to get their academic paperwork in to be able to enroll mid-year, and some will be here for the practices.”

On the team’s approach to the upcoming Sugar Bowl…

“I thought they approached it serious last year. We didn't play real well, but we had a bunch of young guys that got to play on defense. Offensively, we had turnovers, and when you have turnovers, you don't win football games. We've kind of gotten to that point. We're at a zero turnover margin, and they're at plus 14. So for the last four days, we've been banging that home. We can't have turnovers and win football games. Certainly excited to give our guys an opportunity. They've all embraced the challenge. That's what you do as a leader. You confront and demand and say this is how we're going to do it, and if you don't do it to the standard, then you don't play. All these kids have been great. They've done a good job of that.”

On his evaluation of the signees on the defensive line…

“Excited. I think those three guys, when you start looking across the country, defensive linemen are hard to find, 6 foot, 300-pound plus athletic guys. They don't grow on trees. You don't go pick them and grab them like they do DBs or finding wide receivers. They're hard to find, big, physical presence guys. We needed that. We're losing some core guys, and those three guys to me, they're as good of a group as you'll find in the country with three of them coming in together that we really need.”

On areas the staff still needs to focus on signing student-athletes…

“I would say O-line and receiver were the biggest areas we had to improve our roster, but you can't say that in a class because a class has all the parts, so if it's missing one part, then you could be deficient two years from now, three years from now, maybe next year. So I don't feel like we're going, oh, man, there's a major deficiency here. We've got a good, really balanced class. You could say linebacker, but we felt like it was not a need to have to go take a guy at inside backer because we had some young guys there.”

On having the opportunity to play freshmen in the SEC Championship game…

“I don't know how many of these guys look at that and acknowledge that. I don't know if that's really important to them because it's two fold. Yeah, they play a lot of freshmen. Everybody in the country plays a lot of freshmen because our rosters aren't as deep as they used to be. Also, sometimes they see that as that's another guy in front of me. So I don't know that that has bearing all the time other than we will give good football players opportunities to play. If you're good enough, you're old enough. You don't have to be a certain age. If you're good enough, you're old enough. We've always had that mantra around here. Lewis Cine had done some good things during the year. He played well when given the opportunity, and he did some good things in that game. He's one of our faster players, and he helps matchup-wise, and he's one of our best tacklers. So that was why he got the opportunity.”

On the activities the team will participate in for the Sugar Bowl…

“We don't get to pick the activities for the players. The Bowl picks a lot of that, and having been there a lot, a lot of them carry over their traditional activities.”

On what the team practice schedule will look like leading up to the Sugar Bowl…

“As far as us, we did a quality control last year when we got back of everything that, if we had to do it again, what would we do different? What can we do better? We took those sheets out, and we're looking at that. We made some changes, some subtle, some major, and I'm excited about the opportunity. That's why you do that when it's fresh on your mind right when you get back. We're very detail oriented of, would we stay there? Would we go there? Would we do this? Would we have this game or that game? Would we practice this way or this time? Look at all that and try to find the best available option. At the end of the day, it's really what kind of person are you inside. Like when you look at yourself in the mirror, can you accept that you did your best and you know you did your best, or do you feel like you did less than your best? That's what we're challenging the guys to do. That comes from inside.”

On the changes in the coaching staff and the landscape of coaching…

“I don't know that it's any different. We had somebody last year, right? He was at Colorado, and he was the defensive coordinator. To me, this is part of the profession. When you win football games and you win your division three years in a row, people get opportunities, and I am happy that Sam Pittman gets the opportunity. We've had other coaches on our staff get opportunities that have elected to stay, and that is a good thing. But for me, the next step is getting ready to play Baylor. It was signing the signing class today. Tomorrow it's getting our players ready to go play Baylor. The next step is a Monday practice for Baylor. So we're working on game prep for those guys. I don't really get into where this is compared to last year or the year before. It's next thing up. What's important now.”

Monday, December 16, 2019

Diamond Dawgs Debut At No. 7 In Preseason Ranking

UGA Sports Communications

The University of Georgia makes its debut at No. 7 in Collegiate Baseball’s Fabulous 40 preseason baseball poll presented by Big League Chew bubble gum.

Georgia is in its seventh year under Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. The Bulldogs welcome back 20 returning lettermen and 16 newcomers. Georgia returns seven starting position players including a pair of 2019 draft picks in Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Cam Shepherd and infielder/outfielder Riley King. Also, several key components of the pitching staff are back including projected first round draft prospects Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox. Georgia’s No. 7 preseason ranking is its best in the preseason since 2009 when it was No. 4.

Louisville was chosen as the preseason No. 1 ranked team for 2020 after going 51-18 and finishing third last year at the College World Series. Five teams from the Southeastern Conference are in the 2020 preseason top 10, the most of any league in the nation. They include No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 6 Mississippi State, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 Auburn and No. 9 Arkansas while LSU came in at No. 11.

The 2019 Dawgs earned a consensus final top 20 national ranking after going 46-17 including a school record mark of 21-9 in the SEC. Also, Georgia was a national No. 4 seed and for the second straight year played host to an NCAA Regional to cap its finest year in a decade.

The Collegiate Baseball newspaper poll is the oldest college baseball poll. Its birth took place during the 1959 college baseball season. The 2020 Dawg season begins Feb. 14 with a three-game series against Richmond at Foley Field.

Dawgs Featured On More All-America Teams

UGA Sports Communications

Four Georgia players have been named to an assortment of All-America teams during the Dawgs’ drive to their third straight Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title.

Junior left tackle Andrew Thomas, a native of Lithonia, has been named to the ESPN, Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and CBS Sports All-America First Team. Graduate safety J.R. Reed, a native of Frisco, Texas, was included on the AP All-America First Team while graduate place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, a native of Marietta, was a First Team selection by the USA Today, Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

The aforementioned trio had already all garnered First Team honors from the Walter Camp group last week. In addition, Thomas has been named to the USA Today Second Team while Blankenship was an AP Second Team selection. Reed was also a USA Today Second Team selection and he joined junior guard Solomon Kindley as Second Team selections by Sports Illustrated.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Devils Defeat Dawgs In The Desert

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs were defeated by the Arizona State Sun Devils, 79-59, in its first true road game of the 2019-20 campaign on Saturday night in Wells Fargo Arena.

Sophomore Tye Fagan paced Georgia in scoring, recording a career-high 15 points. Freshman Anthony Edwards was the only other Dawg to record a double-digit scoring performance, tallying 13. Junior Rayshaun Hammonds grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

“It was tough to get anything going and we never got into a rhythm,” Georgia Head Coach Tom Crean said. “We did not move very well without the ball early on and we didn’t move the ball as well as we needed to… We have got to get mentally tougher and this was our first true road test… We didn’t handle that as well as we needed to and we have to learn from that.”

Edwards continued his dominance in the opening minutes, scoring eight of Georgia’s first ten points, including a fast-break layup and a made free-throw for a three-point play. These baskets from Edwards knotted the game 10-all with 15 minutes remaining in the opening period.

While the Sun Devils pulled away occasionally in the next five minutes of play, the Dawgs stayed within one until a three-point shot from senior Tyree Crump gave Georgia the 18-16 lead with 8:20 remaining.

Arizona State quickly regained the lead and extended it to four, 26-22, with a little over five minutes remaining. While Georgia was able to get within two multiple times, the Dawgs were not able to cut the deficit any further.

The Sun Devils grabbed their largest lead of the game, eight, as time elapsed to send Georgia into the locker room trailing, 39-31.

Out of the half, Crump and graduate transfer Donnell Gresham Jr. recorded back-to-back three-point shots. Shortly after, the Sun Devils grabbed their first double-digit lead of the game, 48-37, with 16:33 to play.

With 7:19 remaining, the Dawgs faced their first 20-point deficit of the night, 71-51. Georgia would trail by 20-plus points for a majority of the final minutes to fall to Arizona State, 79-59.

Up next, the Dawgs return home to face Southern Methodist University on Friday, December 20th at 7 p.m. The match-up will be televised on the SEC Network.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Hot Rod - From Walk-on To Best In Nation

UGA Sports Communications

Photo By Danny Bishop
Georgia graduate place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has been named the winner of the 2019 Lou Groza Award, given to nation’s top place-kicker, at the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards held at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Thursday night.

In addition, Blankenship and junior left tackle Andrew Thomas, a native of Lithonia and graduate safety J.R. Reed, a native of Frisco, Texas, were named to the Walter Camp All-America First Team during the show on Thursday. This marks the most Dawgs chosen by the sport’s oldest All-America squad in one year since David Pollack, Boss Bailey and Jon Stinchcomb garnered the honors in 2002.

Blankenship topped the other two finalists – Iowa’s Keith Duncan and Washington State’s Blake Mazza – to become the Dawgs’ first winner of the award. Blankenship joined Duncan and Mazza at a finalists banquet on December 9th in West Palm Beach, which was hosted by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.

Georgia’s last finalist for the Groza Award before Blankenship was Blair Walsh in 2009. Blankenship was a semifinalist in both 2018 and 2017. He is only the third winner in Southeastern Conference history and the first since Jonathan Nichols of Ole Miss in 2003.

Honors had already begun to roll in for Blankenship this season. The 2019 CoSIDA First Team Academic All-American earned one of the National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar Athlete Awards and was a Campbell Trophy finalist earlier this week in New York City. He was also the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for football this season and was a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy and a semifinalist for Wuerffel Trophy.

Blankenship, a native of Marietta, is the SEC’s second leading scorer this year, averaging 9.2 points per game, and connecting on 25-of-31 field goal attempts and all 198 of his career PATs, including all 44 this year. He has drilled three 50-yard field goals during his team’s 11-2 mark. Blankenship is the FBS active leader by 16 with a total of 78 made field goals. He is UGA’s all-time leading scorer with 432 points, which ranks second all-time in league history.

The former walk-on’s school record 198 consecutive PATs ranks second in SEC history. Thanks in large part to his contribution, Georgia leads the nation with 289 PATs in a row dating back to 2014.

In addition to honors for the current Dawgs, one of Georgia’s greatest legends was honored in Atlanta as Herschel Walker was presented with the NFCAA Contributions to College Football Award for his accomplishments on the field, as well as his work with mental health awareness and the military. Walker was introduced by teammate and 1980 national championship team captain Frank Ros.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Pickens and Walker Named to Coaches Freshman All-SEC Team

UGA Sports Communications

Two Georgia football players have been selected for the Coaches Freshman All-Southeastern Conference Team, according to a league announcement Thursday morning.

Wide receiver George Pickens and defensive tackle Travon Walker were both named to the team. Pickens tallied 37 receptions for 552 yards and seven touchdowns, including one in each of the Dawgs’ final three games. On the defensive front, Walker notched 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, including a division-clinching take down of Auburn quarterback and SEC Freshman of the Year Bo Nix.

Pickens and Walker’s accolades continue a strong awards week for the Dawgs. On Tuesday, nine Dawgs were named to the Coaches and Associated Press All-SEC teams, with junior left tackle Andrew Thomas and senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship earning First Team honors from both groups. On Wednesday, Thomas received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, while Blankenship was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Nine Dawgs Named to Coaches, AP All-SEC Football Teams

Nine University of Georgia football players have been named to the Coaches and Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference First and Second Teams, as announced by the AP on Monday afternoon and league on Tuesday morning.

Junior left tackle Andrew Thomas and senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship were named to the First Team by both voting groups, with Thomas earning his second consecutive First Team designation from the coaches.

The coaches’ First Team also included junior running back D’Andre Swift and graduate safety J.R. Reed, while senior defensive tackle Tyler Clark was named to the Second Team.

On the AP roster, Swift was joined on the Second Team by redshirt-sophomore right tackle Isaiah Wilson, sophomore center Trey Hill, junior linebacker Monty Rice and redshirt-sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes.

The SEC will announce its individual awards on Wednesday, followed by the unveiling of the Freshman All-SEC Team on Thursday.

The No. 5 Dawgs (11-2) will face No. 7 Baylor (11-2) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 1, 2020, in New Orleans, La. ESPN will televise the matchup.

Matt Luke Named Offensive Line Coach

Matt Luke, former head coach at Ole Miss, has been named Associate Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach at the University of Georgia according to an announcement Tuesday by UGA head coach Kirby Smart.

Luke has a long history of coaching the offensive line at Ole Miss, Duke, Tennessee, and Murray State in addition to serving as co-offensive coordinator at both Duke and Ole Miss.

“We are extremely excited and fortunate to have Matt join our staff,” said UGA head coach Kirby Smart. “He’s a proven football coach who has a wealth of experience on the offensive side of the ball, especially in the offensive line. He has a great reputation among those who have played for him and it’s obvious watching his teams over many years that players love him and play hard for him.”

A former offensive lineman at Ole miss from 1995-98, Luke began his career as a graduate assistant at Ole Miss in 1999. His previous coaching stops which led to his head coaching position at Ole Miss included Murray State (OL, 2000-2001), Ole Miss (OL/TE, 2002-2005), Tennessee (OL/TE, 2006-07), Duke (Co-OC/OL, 2008-2011), Ole Miss (Co-OC/OL, 2011-2016), and Ole Miss interim head coach (2017). He was named head coach at Ole Miss where he served from 2018-2019.

A native of Gulfport, Miss., Luke was a standout at Gulfport High School before enrolling at Ole Miss. He graduated from Ole Miss in 2000 with a Bachelor of Business Administration. Along the way he served under head coaches David Cutcliffe at Ole miss and Duke, Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, and Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss.

Luke is married to the former Ashley Grantham of Oxford, Mississippi, and the couple has two sons, Harrison (born Feb. 18, 2008) and Cooper (born July 20, 2011). His father, Tommy, was a defensive back at Ole Miss in the 1960s while his brother, Tom, quarterbacked the Rebels from 1989-91.

Dawgs and Bears In Sugar Bowl

No. 5 Georgia, from the Southeastern Conference, and No. 7 Baylor, from the Big 12 Conference, will be featured in the 86th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, January 1, 2020, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This will be the 58th Sugar Bowl match-up between teams ranked in the Top 10 and the 32nd match-up of 10-win teams. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:45 p.m. (Central) and will be televised by ESPN.

Tickets are available by visiting

This is the fourth match-up of teams from the SEC and the Big 12 since an agreement was signed by the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the two elite conferences. The Sugar Bowl will host the top available teams from those conferences five times in the next seven years – in the other two seasons (2020 and 2023), the Sugar Bowl will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal. The agreement runs through the 2025 season.

“The Allstate Sugar Bowl is honored and excited to host two of the best teams in the country,” said Monique Morial, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “For 85 years, the Sugar Bowl has built a tradition of hosting great college football action, and thanks to the SEC and the Big 12 we have the chance to build on that this year. This match-up between the Dawgs and the Bears not only represents great football but also great fun.”

The Allstate Sugar Bowl is the designated destination for the champions of both the SEC and the Big 12. However, with SEC Champion LSU and Big 12 Champion Oklahoma both qualifying for the College Football Playoff (CFP) based on their top-four national rankings, replacement teams were designated by both conferences. The SEC assigned Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC) as the Dawgs own the SEC’s second-highest CFP ranking while Baylor (11-2, 8-1 Big 12) is the Big 12’s designee as the conference runner-up.

“This Sugar Bowl match-up is ideal for the Bowl and for New Orleans,” said Sugar Bowl CEO Jeff Hundley.  “Not only do we get to welcome two top-seven teams, we get to renew an old friendship with Georgia, who was just here last year, and start a new one with Baylor as the Bears make their first Sugar Bowl trip in over 60 years.  It’s going to be a special week for everyone involved.”

This will be the fifth all-time meeting between Georgia and Baylor – the Dawgs won all four meetings by an average of just 6.8 points and all four were played in Athens. The teams’ first match-up was a 24-14 decision in 1972 while the last meeting was a 15-3 Georgia win in 1989. The Dawgs also won 16-14 in 1978 and 17-14 in 1985.

This will be the 15th Sugar Bowl meeting between teams that now make up the Big 12 and SEC. The first meeting came in the second Sugar Bowl in 1936 when TCU and Hall-of-Famer Sammy Baugh held off LSU and its own Hall-of-Fame quarterback Abe Mickal, 3-2, in a quagmire. Those teams split national championship recognition that season. The last Big 12-SEC meeting in the Sugar Bowl was the 2019 game when Texas posted a 28-21 victory over Georgia. The Big 12 holds a 9-5 advantage entering this year’s game.

Georgia will be making its 11th Sugar Bowl appearance and is the 20th team to make back-to-back appearances in the game – the Dawgs played in three straight Sugar Bowls from 1981-83. Georgia has a 4-6 all-time mark, including a 1981 victory over Notre Dame which capped an undefeated national championship season for head coach Vince Dooley’s squad. Baylor will be making its second Sugar Bowl appearance – the Bears upended Tennessee in the 1957 Sugar Bowl as Baylor legend Del Shofner earned Most Outstanding Player recognition.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is making his second Sugar Bowl trip as a head coach while Baylor’s Matt Rhule will become the 98th different coach to lead a team to the game.

Schools that are currently in the SEC have registered an all-time mark of 36-43-1 (.456) in the Sugar Bowl, while this will be the 23rd appearance in the game by a current member of the Big 12, with an overall record of 14-8 (.636).

The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 50 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 85-year history. The 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2020. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors nearly 100,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit

Post Game Notes

Note: Post Game Notes and other articles delayed due to a torn quad and surgery to repair, but we'll be good to go by the bowl game.

UGA Sports Communications

Another SEC Championship Game Appearance: Georgia dropped to 3-5 all-time in SEC Championship Games after falling 37-10 to undefeated LSU. The Dawgs (11-2) are now 1-3 versus LSU when the teams have met with a league title on the line. LSU (13-0) leads the all-time series over Georgia 18-13-1. Georgia was making its third straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game under Kirby Smart.

A Look At The Defense: Before today, the Dawgs and Clemson were the only two teams in the FBS not to allow more than 20 points. LSU registered a 37-10 win as the Tigers came in ranked second nationally in Scoring Offense (48.7 ppg). Georgia was rankedsecond nationally in Scoring Defense, allowing just 10.4 ppg. LSU claimed a 17-3 edge at the half with 255 yards of total offense (51-rush, 204-passing). The Tigers finished with 481 total yards (132-rushing, 349-passing).

Georgia’s leading tacklers today were graduate J.R. Reed, junior Richard LeCounte, freshman Lewis Cine, all with six apiece. Sophomore Jordan Davis registered a sack of minus seven yards in the second half with LSU in the Red Zone that forced a field goal. DeVonte Wyatt also collected his first sack of the year. A Georgia interception gave LSU the ball at the 13, and it led to a TD and a 34-3 lead.

A Look At The Offense: The Dawgs tallied a season-low 10 points on 286 yards (61-rushing, 225-passing). Georgia trailed 17-3 at the half, posting 138 yards of offense (21-rush, 117-passing). Junior QB Jake Fromm (20-for-42, 225 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) finished the first half 10-for-20 for 117 yards. He was injured on a sack with 7:23 left in the 2nd quarter. At that point, Georgia trailed 14-3, and he was 8-for-15 for 82 yards. Redshirt sophomore Stetson Bennett inherited a 3rd-and-17 and his pass attempt was incomplete. Fromm returned on the next possession and finished the half and the remainder of the game.

Georgia faced its largest deficit of the year today. The Dawgs had not trailed in their past six games since an overtime loss to South Carolina. Sophomore wideout/punt returner Dominick Blaylock went down with a knee injury late in the first quarter following an 11-yard catch for a first down. He did not return. Also, Kearis Jackson was limited in the first half due to an ankle injury.

The Bulldogs did convert three fourth down attempts. On a 4th-and-8 at LSU 35, freshman George Pickens caught an 18-yard pass. Brian Herrien caught a 3-yard pass on a 4th-and-three for a first down. Also, Pickens had a 15-yarder on 4th-and-10. Coming in today, the Dawgs were just 2-for-6 on the year on 4th down.

Blankenship Supplies A Field Goal And PAT: Graduate PK Rodrigo Blankenship had four points (FG, PAT) to give him 432 for his career. He already owns the school record for career points and ranks second in SEC history. Today, he finished1-for-3 (missed 52; made 39, missed 37) in field goals. He is now 25-for-31 on the season in field goals. He has tied the SEC record for consecutive PATs as he now has 198 (also Daniel Carlson, Auburn 2014-17).

Reviewing The Receivers: At the half,senior Tyler Simmons led the Dawgs with three catches for 40 yards while junior tailback D’Ande Swift had three catches for 18 yards. In the first half, Georgia lost wideout Dominick Blaylock (knee) and Kearis Jackson was limited with an ankle injury. The Dawgs were already without leading receivers Lawrence Cager (ankle) and freshman George Pickens who missed the first half due to suspension for fighting in the Ga. Tech game. Pickens returned in the 2nd half and had a team-best four catches for 54 yards and one TD. He leads the team with seven TD receptions.

Big First Half For Camarda: Sophomore punter Jake Camarda (4 for 48.4 average) punted three times for a 54.0 average in the first half and only punted once in the second half (a pooch for 33 downed at the LSU 12) as Georgia went 3-for-3 on 4th down.He boomed a 65- and a career-tying 66-yarder, today which gives him nine punts of 60+ yards in his career and the longest ever by a Dawg in an SEC Championship Game. Earlier this year, he also had 66-yarders at Auburn and versus South Carolina.

Rushing Summary: Senior Brian Herrien had a team-best 24 yards on eight attempts. D’Andre Swift, who was injured in the Ga. Tech game last week, only had one carry for 0 yards in the first half, and then he got the first carry in the second half and gained 13 yards. Those were Swift’s only carries on the day. With Georgia trailing, the Dawgs turned to the passing game mostly in the second half.

Points off Turnovers: Georgia did not force any turnovers while LSU scored 7 points off two Dawg miscues (2 Jake Fromm interceptions; both made by Derek Stingley, Jr.)

For Starters & Game Captains: Graduate DB J. R. Reed now has a team-high 42 consecutive starts for the defense while junior QB Jake Fromm leads the offense with 41 consecutive starts. Graduate Eli Wolf made his first career start for the Dawgs as they started two tight ends while senior Brian Herrien (TB) made his second career start, both this year (season opener versus Vanderbilt). Wolf made seven starts at Tennessee in his career. Also on defense, freshmen Lewis Cine (DB) and Tyrique Stevenson (DB) both made their first career starts as the team employed seven DB/Safeties.

Fromm, Reed and Andrew Thomas (LT) started their third straight SEC Championship game.

Today’s game captains were Reed, Fromm and junior D’Andre Swift.