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

SSIgator

September 15th, 2010
11:44 am

“Mark Richt knows a big game when he sees one coming”

Yep. He knew Alabama was big in 2008 and look how that turned out. 1980 – so long ago.

WonderDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:46 am

Cali Dawg, but who is responsible for the “four years of mediocre defense?” Or Mike Bobo? Or for that matter, the embarrasing arrests.

I’m a Mark Richt fan, but he needs to do the job he’s being paid extremely well to do. If he goes 8-5 again, I guess I’ll be one of your “rednecks.”

RxDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:46 am

Sigh, enough with the coaches. Our players just don’t have the drive it takes. Well, some do but there is enough that do not have heart, enough to bring our team down. It’s been like this for the past 2 years and it looks like there is still more of it this year. Recruit winners and you will win. Football is more mental than people give it credit for.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 15th, 2010
11:47 am

ARdawg,

Ugh, ok. Did you follow the post, or what? It is simply stating the culminating events as to why MANY UGA fans are growing weary. Did I expect a NC? Go find a post where I ever stated it! You will not find one, EVER! At best I would have hoped for 10-2, been pleased with a 9-3. Less than that, and it is a disappointment. Now coming off the beat down in Columbia the coaching staff is publicly putting a fare amount of pressure on Murray against a potent offense. This should make all Daw fans rather nervous.

So by your post though, you find nothing in that list that makes sense? You cannot understand any of that? REALLY?

Also on the AJC

September 15th, 2010
11:47 am

“UGA student bitten by bat”

Well we know it didn’t come from the baseball team. LMAO

SSIgator

September 15th, 2010
11:47 am

Bill King -

“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.”

What difference does that make when UGA goes 7-5 with three or four conference loses?

schmeckdawg

September 15th, 2010
11:48 am

WonderDawg at 11:37

You are right on. After spending 19 years at Florida, McGarity knows what it takes to win. I saw him interviewed by Chuck Dowdle and he made no bones about it. He flat out said I expect ALL of our teams to compete and compete for CHAMPIONSHIPS! If CMR and his boys are going to get it done, well then, its been nice knowing ya. Now that being said, I know both Grantham, and Lakatos don’t have their guys yet BUT there is plenty enought talent that we could have won that game to not have played the way we did last Saturday. I mean when you hear two of your supposed best player admit to loafing and not playing up to their potential in a HUGE GAME like that, what does that say for the man in charge!

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
11:51 am

RX I disagree with you. Yeah the SC game sucked beyond belief but these players do have the drive and they have the heart. We would all love for the team to come out Game one and play like their azzes is on fire every game of the year. Even the best of teams start slow and take time to jell. Look at 2007. Nobody was more disappointed than I after that SC loss. By the time we got to the Sugar Bowl I am confident nobody could beat us.

Mobile Dawg

September 15th, 2010
11:51 am

Cali, didn’t we return 10 starters on offense? And don’t give me the AJ stuff. I’m not drinking any more Kool Aid. As bad as everyone says the D played they didn’t lose the game ! ! !

Don’t make me list the big ones CMR missed coming. The biggest game of his career at UGA I will, Bama 08. If we didn’t have something to prove that game we never will under CMR.

Destin Dawg

September 15th, 2010
11:51 am

Ark is for real…. this year …. probably better than SC…. Richt…. who’ll let the DAWGS OUT ????

hornblowermg

September 15th, 2010
11:53 am

when Ealy fumbled at the goal line there was a Georgia WR there who just stood still, did not dive for the ball, and simply watched as the SC boy ran the other way with the ball. this was only one instance; and ,yes sir, there was a great lack of effort by a lot of Georgia’s boys. which game were you watching, Richt? we are very tired of the lies emanating from the Ga coaching staff.

SSIgator

September 15th, 2010
11:54 am

Mark Richt -

“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.”

Translation: The coaches and the players are in big trouble here at UGA. You fans may be our only hope to save us and our high dollar salaries. Please help us. I promise that next year will be better. Also, if we win, all fans will get a free bottle of spray tan. Just stop by my tanning salon after the game. Praise the Lord.

Destin Dawg

September 15th, 2010
11:55 am

if you have to lose.. it;s better to do it early in the season as far as rankings go… we could still have a great year !!! This game is huge.. GO Dawgs !!

JayDawg

September 15th, 2010
11:55 am

I agree with you Truedawg all this talk about finding a new coach needs to stop the people who come on here everyday and say it don’t have a clue about football and are not true dawg fans. It’ll all come around and then they will jump on the ban wagon. GO DAWGS! GO COACH RICHT AND THE BULLDOGS!!!!!!

Loyal Dawg

September 15th, 2010
11:56 am

Cali…you need to stay out of the sun. We have been rebuilding for the past 4 years. Defense should be better this year just based upon scheme alone. Poor tackling and seeming lack of effort from highly recruited players means one thing…no discipline. CMR and Grantham talk a great game…however, I have yet to see it on the field and from their players. I have alot of respect for CMR, but you can’t change the past. Either the new AD can settle for mediocrity and we continue to rebuild every year or he can decide to take this program to another competitive level as most SEC schools have in the past decade as evidenced by the SEC strength nationally. As a life long DAWG Fan, contributor and season ticket holder…I think our program, players and fans deserve the best guidance and leadership that there is out there. I’m sure our new AD feels the same way. I’m not a fire CMR guy…however, I am a “lets do what it takes to get our program back on the right track” fan. And I am tired of Rebuilding every d@mn year.

Dawglasville

September 15th, 2010
11:56 am

A must win if we want to play for the East. I don’t think that U.S.C. will lose more than 2 games and they have the head to head with us.

Who is the proven head coach who is better than Richt and will come? Saban ain’t leaving. Mack Brown ain’t leaving. Meyer ain’t leaving.
It is easy to say that assistants are more proven but do we really know what they will do as a head coach? Look at Joe Lee Dunn, Buddy Ryan. What has Spurrier done since he left Florida? There are no guarantees. We need an enforcer assistant, focus on beefing up our lines, and to have someone out at the bars every night to make sure the kids are doing the crap they shouldn’t be doing.

SSIgator

September 15th, 2010
12:00 pm

Weatherman Mark Richt -

“I don’t think there was a lack of effort. If anything, a guy might have gotten tired from the heat.”

What? Was the temperature on the SC side of the field of play lower than on the UGA side?

Maybe it was due to global warming.

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:00 pm

LowCountry….au contraire! I agreed with most of your post. But, I never expected you to stoke the Fire Richt embers. My point was: High expectations under these conditions lead to grand disappointments. One game (SC) does not a season make. Let’s don’t toss the baby out with the bath water here. Last year was the worse ever in Richt’s tenure. A tenure I might add that hasn’t been substandard by any measure. Last year sucked bigtime. I’m with you there but, were just going into week 3. Lets hold off on who needs to hit the bricks until this season winds down.

Pigeon

September 15th, 2010
12:03 pm

Maybe that bat was actually a small chicken.

gomdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:03 pm

REBUILDING BULL SHZT , GEORGIA HAS THE TALENT ,WE DONT PLAY THE RIGHT PLAYERS IF YOU CAN NOT TACKLE GET THE NEXT MAN IN LINE FRESHMEN OR NOT. IF YOU CAN HOLD ON TO THE BALL FRESHMEN OR NOT LET THEM PLAY . IF YOU RECRUITT GOOD THEN YOU WILL HAVE THE PLAYERS YEAR END AND YEAR OUT.ALL WE EVERY WANT TO DO IS REDSHIRT I WISH THEY WOULD DO AWAY WITH IT EXCEPT MEDICAL.

Murphy

September 15th, 2010
12:04 pm

What ever happened to Joe Lee Dunn?

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 15th, 2010
12:05 pm

Agreed! I am not trying to stoke them at all, just trying to actually be a rationale fan and have an understanding of whats actually going on. I love the University and I had season tickets in the 90’s when it was not the best of days like they are now with CMR. I just appreciate both sides of the argument.

South Ga Dawg

September 15th, 2010
12:05 pm

EVERYONE GET THEIR EARLY AND GET LOUD. IF WE CAN PULL EM THROUGH THIS ONE WHO KNOWS WHERE THIS SEASON CAN GO. LETS DO OUR PART BULLDOG NATION!!!!

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:05 pm

Wrap up tackling is a fundamental taught in High School. These guys already know how to tackle. They just have to do it. I doubt any of them would have been offed a scholarship with film tackling like they did Saturday

WonderDawg

September 15th, 2010
12:05 pm

I don’t usually respond to you, SSIgator, and if you are areal Gator fan, congrats for two decades of great teams.

I don’t know what to think about someone who comes on UGA blogs, every one of them, every day, to gloat at our losses and/or misery. If trashing other coaches and teams gives you some kind of thrills, you’ve certainly had your share (and a lot of other’s shares) of fun.

Good luck in the future. And, for sure, good luck in the after-life. You’re gonna need it

SSIgator

September 15th, 2010
12:07 pm

Marck Richt -

““We have got to do a better job of just sticking our face on that runner”

It appeared to me that Lattimore had several facial imprints of UGA players on his jersey after he ran over them. After the game, it must have been like scraping love bugs off of your car.

Mobile Dawg

September 15th, 2010
12:07 pm

JayDawg, I will never lay down against the Dawgs man. For me, I started questioning CMR in 2005 when he lost the AU game and CWM got the blame. That series of downs which if you are a true Dawg and knowledgeable of the game should stand forever in your mind. Late in the game and we have the lead, CMR elected to throw on first down, throw on second down, throw on third down, punt. We used twenty five seconds of the seven plus minutes remaining in the game. Honestly, I haven’t been able to get over that, especially since things have continued to go down hill. Our foundation has eroded, our talent has eroded, and we continue to see, IMO monumental errors in game planning. We’re not a physical football team anymore. Need I go on? Is it correctable, absolutely, then prove it to me CMR by reversing the things we’ve lost.

A couple of quotes come to mind “we are what we do”, and another favorite “it is difficult to remove by logic an idea that wasn’t placed there by logic in the first place”. Hope the Dawgs “Absolutely Destroy” Arkansas, but that won’t change my short term opinion. I want to see long term improvements in numerous areas.

gomdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:10 pm

THE PLAYERS IS GOT TO WANT IT , I MEAN REALY WANT IT DOWN IN THE GUT WANT IT, I LOVE MY DAWGS BUT IT HURTS SO BAD WHEN YOU SEE THE TALENT WE GET AND ITS THE SAME OLD SHZT. EVERY YEAR EXCUSES. AS COACH SABEN SAYS DO YOUR JOB .THE PLAY WILL COME.

POUND

September 15th, 2010
12:10 pm

SSIGaytor,

One word to describe you: JACKAZZ!!!
You’ve got nothing better to do than troll on the UGA blogs? What a loser!!!
How’s that Brantley for Heisman thing going? Still think he’s better than Teblow?

SOUTHGADAWG88

September 15th, 2010
12:12 pm

FLA,TENN,AUB and GT are the must win games.

Steve

September 15th, 2010
12:14 pm

CMR says the Razorbacks are a dangerous offensive football team.
With all our talent why aren’t we???????

spotlight on bobo

September 15th, 2010
12:16 pm

folks, grantham is the real deal. give him time to get the “willies” out of our defense. look for another respectable performance from our defense on saturday……

the spotlight this year is shining directly on bobo………..and so far what have we seen.

12th in rushing offense in the SEC
12th in first downs in SEC
8th in 3rd down conversions
1st in penalties. (how many defensive penalties have we had this year?)
9th in time of posession.

arkansas is leading the SEC in several defensive statistics. with bobo at the helm, i doubt their position will change come saturday.

How I see it

September 15th, 2010
12:16 pm

If we lose this game, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll go better than 8-4. And if we go 8-4, Richt is on the hot seat next year, having to go at least 9-3 and probably at least 10-2 to save his job. So…if we lose this game, it pretty much puts Richt on the hot seat next year.

The only way I see him getting fired after this year is if we go 6-6 or worse.

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:16 pm

LowCountry….I’ve seen you on here for years. I have no doubt you are one of the good guys and most loyal, knowledgeable and dedicated Dawg fans out there. I didn’t intend to imply otherwise if you took it that way. I too consider myself as loyal as they come and I do not drink the kool-aid. However, IMO firing somebody, anybody at this point of the season is completely insane. There is a lot of football to play and I for one don’t wish to have the season tainted with the defeatists attitudes that we see so often here on the blogs.

Jimmy

September 15th, 2010
12:16 pm

We all agree that SC will probably lose one SEC game…correct.
But they hold the tie breaker over UGA….so they need to lose 2 SEC games and UGA has to beat Fla for UGA to have a shot at SEC East.
From what I saw Saturday, both of those might be a stretch.
Juat stating the obvious…..cant you tell I have been listening to CMR press conferences!!!!

Cobb Dawg

September 15th, 2010
12:18 pm

I highly doubt we’ll get a lot of noise at Sanford on Saturday. Part of the problem: Not enough students in the stands. Back in the day, every student was guaranteed a seat at the game — not the case anymore. I’m an alum, and I’m willing to admit we’re not the ones who are making all the racket out there. Need more kids in the bleachers.

Bring Murray along slowly if you want — but if you smother the kid that’s not good either. I say let him show what he’s got — making mistakes is part of the learning process. Making him sit on his hands doesn’t anybody any good.

How I see it

September 15th, 2010
12:18 pm

spotlight on bobo,

I’m certainly not a huge fan of Bobo but I’m done playing the “blame the coordinator” game. The spotlight is on Richt.

gomdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:20 pm

EVERY GAME IS A MUST .

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 15th, 2010
12:21 pm

No worry’s man! If Grantham can continue to get Houston to believing he is the 2nd coming of Ware, then Mallett may have a very uncomfortable day in the pocket. That will be a big must see in howthe game unfolds.

WonderDawg

September 15th, 2010
12:22 pm

You’re right, spotlight, Richt only corrected half of the problem. Bobo has to go.

Steven O. Spurrier (Old Ball Coach)

September 15th, 2010
12:23 pm

Gosh, I don’t know what happens to all that “talent” when they get to Georgia…….Must be too hard to coach em up.

GTJeff

September 15th, 2010
12:24 pm

Lowdawg excellent points. I’m not a dawg but I do like seeing them win every weekend except the Saturday after TG. I cannot understand why UGA is not in the NC picture every year & at least splitting the Fla series year after year with all the great talent on the team. Maybe Richt should be left to recruiting & let some new blood (a la Kirby Smart) take over the reigns of coaching. Just my $0.02.

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:25 pm

If Lattimore happens to go down, highly likely Carolina loses more than 2 SEC games. Carolina has nothing else but a solid defense. Too bad we couldn’t stop him

Coach Urban Meyer

September 15th, 2010
12:26 pm

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.

It’s better than the shoot outs we’ve been having with Miami of Ohio and USF.

NFL

September 15th, 2010
12:27 pm

Hey Spurrier, keep our name out of your mouth.

Sweat Socks

September 15th, 2010
12:27 pm

Richt needs the fans to show up???

HA!!!

The fans need RICHT to show up!!!

Mean Machine

September 15th, 2010
12:28 pm

@”How I see it” – And that is the problem, 9-3, or 10-2 every year and backing into the SEC championship game once in awhile is underachieving at UGA. This program should be on the level of Florida and Alabama, not a 2nd tier team going to meaningless bowl games. It’s been 5 years since UGA won the SEC, and anything less than an SEC championship THIS year is unacceptable. I’m tired of this crap!

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
12:29 pm

LowCountry

Arkansas is something I know a little about. Actually a closet fan being I live just down the road. Mallet is the real deal and he will have some success in the passing game. Their running game is beyond suspect and their defense is pourus. If they will turn Murray loose he could have a big day. If Bobo keeps him shackled, we won’t be able to score enough points to win this game. I’d wager AR will score at least 30

Murphy

September 15th, 2010
12:29 pm

Sweat Socks,

AMEN!!!!! WELL STATED!!!!!!!!!!!!

ga gator

September 15th, 2010
12:29 pm

great article Erica on your blog.