Mark Richt knows a big game when he sees one coming

Mark Richt wants some help Saturday from the normally laid-back Sanford Stadium crowd. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt wants some help Saturday from the normally laid-back Sanford Stadium crowd. (Associated Press)

Some college football observers, including ESPN’s Chris Low, see Saturday’s game against Arkansas as approaching “must-win” status for Georgia. “Football seasons aren’t made to be over by the third week,” Low says. “But if Georgia can’t hold serve at home Saturday against Arkansas, the Bulldogs are looking at the grim likelihood that the 2010 season is over before it ever had a chance to begin.”

Nothing like a bit of “sky is falling” talk in the third week of the season. But I frankly don’t think that’s the case because I believe both South Carolina and Florida will be beatable more than once within conference play this season.

Still, Mark Richt recognizes the magnitude of the game. And then some.

In his Tuesday press conference, Richt put it like this:

“We have a very big game this week. I don’t know how big a game can get, but this is big. We know that and our coaches know it, our players know it, I think the Bulldog nation knows it. It’s big.”

Aside from reminding me of one of Don Knotts’ Barney Fife bits, it was clear Richt appreciates the task that awaits his team this week.

His assessment of the Razorbacks offense is pretty much on the money: “They have a lot of returning starters on both sides of the ball. They are a very, very dangerous offensive football team, it’s very obvious that they are that. They have probably the No. 1 pro prospect at quarterback of anybody in the nation in Ryan Mallett. They have three great receivers coming back. They were all sophomores last year, and I thought they were fantastic last year. They have four returning offensive linemen who are seniors. They are doing that running back by committee right now. Their tight end, D.J. Williams, is a fantastic player, a senior who is very versatile. That is going to be a challenge.”

And he was diplomatic by noting that Arkansas’ defense currently is highly ranked nationally without mentioning that they haven’t really played anybody yet. Closer to the mark was this comment: “They have a bunch of young men who have something to prove, I’m sure, in a Southeastern Conference game.”

Of course, the same applies to Georgia’s defense after what happened in Columbia.

Richt’s bottom line on Saturday: “They are a team that believes they can challenge for the Western Division title, and have very good reason to believe that. It’s going to be a heck of a ballgame. Our fans, we need you if you’re listening. We need you at this game. We need you to be extremely loud when they have the ball, because if we could just get one offensive lineman to jump offsides one time, that might be the difference in a drive continuing or it being stopped. We need all the help we can get in that regard, and it’s going to take everybody to beat this team. They are a really fine team.”

I’d like to believe Richt’s call to arms for the Bulldog fans at Sanford Stadium will produce a wall of sound, but I’m not sure it really will. The students will be loud, but beyond that? This is Arkansas, after all, not one of the traditional rivals that gets the alums’ blood boiling, and other than roaring on key third downs Sanford crowds tend to be a bit laid-back. Still, one can hope.

A couple of other Tuesday comments by Richt caught my eye.

On the development of Aaron Murray as a quarterback: “Coach [Mike] Bobo and I are kind of double-teaming him. We watch everything he does, and he knows that. We’ve tried to not strangle him and not let him do anything. We just basically want him to create some habits that will carry him throughout his entire career, the ball handling, the footwork. … Watching his demeanor and watching him operate and listening to him talk in between series about what did you see and what didn’t you see, he’s very sharp. He’s very aware of what’s going on around him and I think he’s handled it well. It gives us more confidence to allow him to have more plays where the onus is on him to make a play or make a good decision and make a good throw. We’re gaining confidence in Aaron Murray’s ability to really function well in this type of game.”

Does that mean the wraps come off this week?

“I didn’t know if it would be week three or not. If you give a guy too much too soon and then if he fails miserably in his own mind even, if he makes a mistake that costs you the game, sometimes for a brand new guy that’s hard to overcome, the pressure of that. … It’s hard to lose the confidence and then build it back up. It’s better to kind of take it slow and gradually get to the point where you can handle it. Is he ready for everything that can come down the pipe? Probably not. And will he make mistakes as we go? There is no doubt that he will. But I think he’ll be able to handle the fact that, ‘Hey I made a mistake. I’m going to be able to shake it off and let’s go play and do better.’ I think that’s really kind of where we are at with Aaron.”

I also thought it was notable that while Richt agreed the offense had too many three-out-outs last Saturday, he said the defense didn’t cause enough of them for the Gamecocks.

“Some people say the offense has to do more to get the defense off the field and there is some truth to that, but the defense always has the right to stop them on third down if they want to get off the field. It’s everybody’s responsibility to rest the defense. Get a three-and-out and you can rest all you want. If the offense gets three-and-out, you can get another three-and-out. The last thing I’m going to do is start trying to say, this side of the ball has to do better because of that side of the ball. That’s a bunch of junk. What’s important is we are a team and we believe in each other and we know no matter what the situation is, we have to do enough to win the ball game.”

On the tackling problem, he didn’t mince words: “We have got to do a better job of just sticking our face on that runner and wrapping him up and running our feet. In our perimeter, our defensive backs, in my opinion, were not doing that. They were deciding to try to go low on the guy or they were trying to knock the guy down and not really face that issue and get right down the middle of him and wrap him up. You watch games, there are a lot of DBs that are doing the very same thing. We have to have the confidence to go face him up. Once a defender begins to wrap up a guy, then the other guys can come along and strip the ball or join the posse and knock him back or whatever it is.”

As for some of Georgia’s players saying they thought maybe there was a lack of effort against South Carolina, Richt said: “I think they don’t know what to say. They have to think of something. I don’t know if they really know what to say. They just know we didn’t do a very good job and that we have to get better. They are frustrated. … I don’t think there was a lack of effort. If anything, a guy might have gotten tired from the heat and maybe not subbing as freely as we wanted to or should have in a couple of instances, but nothing real flagrant in that area. We got knocked back. That was the biggest problem, we got knocked back.”

Overall, Richt said, “There were a lot of things that we have to do better. Everything is correctable, and I think our guys will be very anxious to play again and do a better job.”

Saturday would be a good time to do that. Because, in case you haven’t heard, this game with Arkansas? It’s big!

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390 comments Add your comment

Clint

September 15th, 2010
10:49 am

It’s pretty much a must win. You can’t fall to 0-2 in the conference with games coming up against Florida, Auburn, and teams that beat you last year in Tennessee and Kentucky. If we lose this one, then the season, for all purposes, is over. The mob is starting to gather outside Richt’s door and they will be really angry if we start 1-2. New defensive staff or not, I wouldn’t want to be CMR if we lose.

Victorious Sakrete

September 15th, 2010
10:51 am

This game will be a career changer for several UGA coaches.

Nooga' Dawg

September 15th, 2010
10:54 am

Bobo needs to go !!

dbc

September 15th, 2010
10:55 am

Didn’t CMR say this about Carolina for half the summer?

30-24 Dawgs - We Run This State!

September 15th, 2010
10:56 am

Bobo needs to open up the offense for Aaron Moxie, tired of his conservative play calling!

Murphy

September 15th, 2010
10:56 am

Im glad Richt understands this is a big game/a must win. Wasnt the S.Carolina a big/must win game? Every SEC game is big!!!! Especially for this team!!

Chris Rainey

September 15th, 2010
11:01 am

Time to die!!!!

JaxDawg05

September 15th, 2010
11:02 am

It looked like CTG put defenders in position to make plays last week and they didn’t. This week they need to finish the drill.

17 of 20

September 15th, 2010
11:03 am

When Georgia loses Saturday afternoon their season will be over. They will then be playing for a New Years Day bowl game and it is still September.

npgator

September 15th, 2010
11:03 am

Speaking of time to die – that is what is going to happen to Georgia’s chances of winning the SEC after they lose to Arky this weekend.

Da'rick Rogers

September 15th, 2010
11:03 am

Here undercover cop, come over here undercover cop……. BAM!!!!!!!

Robert Hall

September 15th, 2010
11:03 am

Come over here girl!! BAM!!!!!!

Coach Urban Meyer

September 15th, 2010
11:04 am

We will only recruit the top one percent of the one percent.

Frank Lane

September 15th, 2010
11:05 am

I somehow feel good about this game. I think that UGA can outplay Arkansas, and I believe the Richt and team can outcoach Petrino. But it will take more energy and effort than we showed with Carolina.

Time to die

September 15th, 2010
11:07 am

University of Florida: 39 arrests since CUM took over

and you filthy dick-skinner. Come on OUR blogs to label our underage drinkers and scooter violaters “Thugs”

BigDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:08 am

UGA loses Saturday they need to start the head coaching seach immediately. Do Not wait until the end of the year when everyone is searching but start immediately so that when Richt is released in November we will have who we want rather than taking 3rd or 4th person on our list. Van Gorder and Strong would have to be the top 2. Let’s get someone in here that understands what UGA football is supposed to be and expects discipline out of the players rather than criminal activity couple with a soft team.

PMC

September 15th, 2010
11:09 am

It’s college football, must win is every week. This is absolutely a must win for relevance.

Lose this game and you’ve lost the first 2 in conference, showing just how far this program has regressed in the past 2 years.

TrueDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:09 am

I know that his is a very large game for the Dawgs. We are already behind the 8 ball so to speak in the eastern division and a second loss really makes it difficult to challenge for the eastern title. I think both SC and FL will lose, but hoping for both of them end up with 2 losses at the end of the season, to me that is a long shot. As for all of the talk about Fire Richt! Fire Richt! Does anyone really know how hard it is to win 10 games EVERY year for the stretch that Ga did? IN THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE!?!? Eveyone wants to whine about National Title this SEC Championship that. It was just a few years ago that we finished 2nd in the nation. It is not possible to go year after year and consistently win 10 games all the time. Not in today’s college football landscape. All the hand-wringers with their pitch-forks and their torches calling for coaches jobs need to calm down.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RazorbackWire, Darryl P. Jordan, SECSportsWire, SECWestWire, AJC Junkyard Blawg and others. AJC Junkyard Blawg said: Mark Richt knows a big game when he sees one coming http://bit.ly/d4O3WQ [...]

bill

September 15th, 2010
11:12 am

If we don’t win Saturday, the speed dials to Kirby will begin about 430pm on way home to Atlanta…it’s time for this team to “man up” if they like the current coaching staff…

McDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:12 am

the fact is after one loss in the SEC every game is a must-win

Dirty Dawg

September 15th, 2010
11:13 am

It wasn’t much of a song, but young Mr. Murray needs to be exposed to Fabien Forte’s ‘Turn Me Loose…turn me loose I say’ and to play it for Bobo and Richt. Footwork and ball-handling are good enough…let the kid do what he does. Maybe it’ll be enough to eke this one out…cause it’s for sure we ain’t gonna dominate anybody other than the Lou-Lafs and the Eye-dee-hoes.

npgator

September 15th, 2010
11:14 am

It is not a matter of if Georgia loses Saturday but by how much!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 15th, 2010
11:14 am

It’s simply a must win. Unfortunately Murray now may have that rains lifted off of him, but now lets hope he doesn’t feel the pressure to try to hard to make a play. It seems very easy at this point for him to get that feeling.

0-2 start in the SEC, honestly could be a big nail in the coffin for CMR and/or Bobo. The team has to realize that this is a big win. I hate to say that but its a HUGE game.

erika

September 15th, 2010
11:15 am

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
11:17 am

You can’t beat Florida so some of your can only revel at a Florida player (if true) losing a scholarship. Sad when all the dawgs can do now is talk about how good they are, but haven’t showed anyone they deserve it.

By the way, if true I will join all who demand he be gone.

BufordKing

September 15th, 2010
11:17 am

I watched the replay of the Chicken/Dawgs game – and about threw up.

We flat laid an egg – got whipped on the line of scrimmage – and offensively – our coaches called a “PREVENT OFFENSE” game.

Kudos for the Chickens for exposing – AGAIN – the whimps we have leading this team.

The good news is that it’s early – let’s hope this staff and players come to play.

I have serious doubts that our talent level and coaching is beyond average – and would not be surprised if we find ourselves down quickly against Arkansas.

Washaun Easy

September 15th, 2010
11:20 am

come over herz parkd car BAM!!!!! fumble hehe Iz ok coachs…hehe

knoxdawg

September 15th, 2010
11:22 am

It is a big game but then every SEC game is big. In 2007 we lost to USC and finished 11-2, #2 in the country. No reason we can’t do that again. The Dawgs are not dead yet. They just have to focus and play to their ability and see how it all shakes out. Time for the crowd to be a factor on Saturday.

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
11:23 am

You can just smell the desperation emanating from Richt and Bobo-let’s turn our freshman lose.

Do you seriously wanted to get into a shoot out with Arkansas, with that defense
that has gone from the junkyard dawgs to the parking lot poodles.

GAD

September 15th, 2010
11:23 am

npgator, Like when the gators play BAMA in a few weeks.

ROLL TIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

George G.

September 15th, 2010
11:24 am

It absolutely is must-win for Georgia’s 2010 season, but not for Richt’s job security…

The fellas at CFN even agree… http://bit.ly/aKivTK

hobnailboot

September 15th, 2010
11:24 am

It is a fact that Murray should be turned loose more. We have to run the football. Things will be much tougher on him if we can’t run.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 15th, 2010
11:25 am

Look, its hard to win 10 games a year. We get that. I am not a fire CMR guy but lets look at it.

1) SEC 4 straight National Titles: How far away is UGA?

2) Georgia Recruiting: outside of Florida, Texas and California now state produces more D-1 prospects.

3) Facilities and money: UGA has top notch facilities and plenty of cash to continue to enhance the Program.

4) Arrests and lack of accountability: This could very well be higher, and though at #4 does not mean it is no less important. CMR needs to make a tough stand as do ALL college coaches.

5) What happens to the talent when it gets to Athens? Apparent inability to maximize roster talent. This could also be labeled where is the next wave of Jim Donnan type recruits on the defensive side?

6) 1980: This seems to be a battle cry for why we should excel and why we should be mocked. Lets always remember this team, but it is time to move forward.

UGA has the potential to be ELITE every year, but something is holding them back. We need to put our finger on it. CMR is beginning to run out of reasons to explain away losses. Accountability needs to be the key word for the rest of the season. Beginning from the top down.

Please note- I am not a fire CMR guy, but it is beginning to see just why and how the unrest is beginning to build.

Dawg_Mike

September 15th, 2010
11:26 am

Agree w Lowcountry

reebok

September 15th, 2010
11:27 am

i am a tech fan and thus don’t have a dog in this fight (sorry), but as a football fan i do think georgia has to win saturday against ar-kansas to stay relevant in their division. going 1-2 with 2 conference losses and dropping WAY out of the top 25…out of the coveted ‘others receiving votes’ category, for that matter…would put the dogs in a situation where 7-5 or even 6-6 is in play…just my 2 cent’s worth,as always. i hope your team plays well and avoids the injuries this week.

Dylan

September 15th, 2010
11:27 am

Start 0-2 in the SEC and we’re looking at yet another second or third place finish in the East.

DP

September 15th, 2010
11:27 am

How’s the Ealey for Heisman campaign going Bill? Is he going to start for Georgia this weekend?

http://blogs.ajc.com/junkyard-blawg/2009/12/10/bulldog-bites-washaun-for-heisman/

An interesting comparison between Knowshon Moreno’s numbers and those of freshman Washaun Ealey at Bulldawg Illustrated makes the case that Georgia fans could be in for some exciting results in the running game.
Ealey didn’t play an entire season, but if you take his numbers and extrapolate them to a full season’s worth, they compare quite favorably with what Moreno did. In fact, his yards-per-carry average of 5.8 is better than Moreno’s 5.4 in 2007 and 5.6 in 2008.
The blog also notes that “only two SEC running backs with a minimum of 100 carries, Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss and Mark Ingram of Alabama, averaged more rushing yards per carry in 2009 than Washaun’s 5.8 YPC. Mark Ingram is considered to be the leading Heisman contender, and here is his 2009 line: 249 carries, 1542 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, 15 [touchdowns]. Washaun’s extrapolated numbers would be in Ingram’s neighborhood. Is it too early to begin the Washaun Ealey for Heisman chatter?”

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
11:29 am

.Some of you must believe in the Wizard of OZ, some how this week the DB coach is going to try and instill some courage in the corners and safeties so they at least try to make a tackle.

Good luck

Cali Dawg

September 15th, 2010
11:30 am

All you rednecks (and I mean all you UGA, UF, Ark, etc… fans) calm down, get back to work, couch, bar, or wherever you crawled out of. UGA is going through a rebuilding process and will take time. Did you seriously think we were going to win every game with a new qb and D? You must be high. We will be fine, just give the man some time to regroup. It’s not easy replacing 4 years of mediocre defense.

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
11:34 am

Every SEC game is a must win IMO. Highly unlikely Georgia loses this game but in the event we do, the season isn’t over. There’ll still be 9 more games to play. While all you numbnuts sit around predicting what is going to happen and how it plays out well, all of you will be wrong. There is a reason they actually play the games. The SEC is a bit on the weak side at this point of this year and anything can and will happen. If there is ever a SEC game to lose I haven’t seen it yet. Even when a team has won it’s division it is still jockeying for a NC. All SEC games are must wins for SEC teams. Anyone who says different is a prime example of a village idiot

Billo

September 15th, 2010
11:36 am

It may be a long season for Richt, and possibly his last one. He losses this game he has to beat UF to keep his job.

RxDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:36 am

Yeh, this is a must win game. For the SEC to still be a goal, this is a certainly a must win. But as a Dawg fan, it’s hard to think about any goals for this team except somehow winning the next game. I didn’t see a champion caliber team on the field, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hope they can turn it around. Go Dawgs, beat Arakansas!

WonderDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:37 am

It is absolutely a must win game for UGA. Lose this one and it’s gonna be hard to do better than the 8-5 from last year. We will have at least 5 games that could go either way: Miss State, UT, AU, KY, GT. Then we have the annual rollover performance in Jax.

If Richt loses 4 or 5 games this year, it will just have to affect recriuting – it hasn’t before because he’s always rebounded with a good year after a “bad” one.

If he doesn’t demote Bobo, the new guy (McGarity) may not be as friendly a boss as his last one.

WonderDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:38 am

George G, didn’t the “guys at CFN have UGA ranked #3? I mean, what the hell do they know?

schmeckdawg

September 15th, 2010
11:40 am

Without a doubt, a MUST WIN GAME!!!!!!!!!

WonderDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:40 am

DP, Ealey’s got as good a chance as your guy, Nesbitt. Which is to say, ZERO.

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
11:40 am

LowCountry

You use to make some sense. You seem to be slipping some. The reason we lost those games is because the other team scored more points than we did. Enough of the all problems are Mark Richt. Bull Kaka. He is not on the hot seat despite the fervor trying to put him there. There are MANY fine coaches who have never won a NC. If you expected a NC Bulldog team this year your were only deluding yourself. REMINDER: We were 8-5 last year. We have a RS Frosh QB and a new defensive cord. Nothing in that mix indicates a championship season. Get your head out of your azz

Half Century Dawg fan

September 15th, 2010
11:41 am

@ Billo, so when did you become our AD?

ADMan

September 15th, 2010
11:42 am

I have a friend in Texas who knows Muschamp well.Muschamp has a claus in his current contract with Texas that states he can leave at anytime with no penalty if he is offered the head coaching position at Georgia…..We need to call him home at the end of this season…it’s time to end the mediocrity in the Georgia football program…We need coaches that want to win every game, hold nothing back and expect the same from their players. When you start losing games to S.Carolina the way Georgia did last Saturday because the coaches decided that they didn’t want to give our QB too much to handle, it’s time to make a change….A coaching change with a proven winner will re-energize the program, fan base and certainly help keep our best high school athletes from leaving the state.We have turned into a program that nobody fears..average at best..our coaches make excuses after the fact instead of maning up when it counts…..no more arrests for stupid violations..It starts at the top…and we fans and alumni aren’t getting our monies worth right now.