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

76-DAWG

September 15th, 2010
4:05 pm

Gatorbait 17-3
My dad is from Ft White. Live Oak is within a few mile of my dads stomping grounds. We have a lot of friends that live on the Swanee, Sante Fe and Ichetucknee rivers.

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:05 pm

DawginLex

Maybe you should let Roll Tide speak for himself. I really don’t like arguing with mind readers.

Roll Tide

September 15th, 2010
4:06 pm

DawginLex got the point. Your program is a Johnny come lately. You all collectively believe that SEC history didn’t start until 1990, when your cute little run began. Even with that run, Bama leads UF 20 – 14 all time, and will be 22 – 14 after this season.

However, that run is now over, and will continue to be so. Mark my words, you can and will get beaten down two times this year by the Tide. The Gators simply don’t have the physicality or players to compete with Bama, and they won’t for the continuing future. Every aspect of our team and program is superior to yours now, and will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future.

mcdaviddawg

September 15th, 2010
4:08 pm

Richt doesn’t seem to understand anything. Thought South Carolina was a big game, sure didn’t look like it from what I saw in a game plan.

That's going to leave a Mark

September 15th, 2010
4:08 pm

AR-KANSAS 24 – UGA 10

DawginLex

September 15th, 2010
4:08 pm

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:08 pm

how2fish

September 15th, 2010
4:02 pm
Jesus, Joesph and Mary I came to a UGA blog and lo and behold a knife fight starts between Bama and Gator fans…please DOWN IN FRONT and pass me the popcorn !

How about a coke with popcorn?

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:10 pm

Roll Tide

We will show up and we will see.

Dawg Tired

September 15th, 2010
4:11 pm

South Carolina was the “big game”. Winning or losing this Arkansas game will not change our standing in the SEC East. Thanks Coach Tan for recognizing the importance of this game. In the future, perhaps all SEC games will be considered crucial.

Can't we all just get along

September 15th, 2010
4:12 pm

Smack talking is mental masturbation for some….. The immaturity of it all…… every program has had its ups and downs. Dawgs are in a rut….. maybe they man up and pull out of it …maybe they don’t…… I am a big Dawg fan but I am also a big SEC fan… As much as I dispise the Vols when we play them I was busted up to see Oregon manhandle them. I like to see all SEC teams succeed except when we plan them… but I ain’t gonna slit my wrists if we don’t or spend all day on a blog insulting other SEC programs….. 17 – 3 is the best example of the immaturity that spoils these blogs..He supports a winning program and that’s great but he has no class…..and loves to show it

Dawg Fud

September 15th, 2010
4:13 pm

For some odd reason, i am at peace with the fact that we could lose 5-6 games this season. It should bother me but it doesn’t. And if we win the remainder of our games (advancing to the SECCG) then I doubt I would be too overly excited.

Is that just me? Or am I just used to Georgia Football: The Girlfriend that Keeps Cheating On You…

Rick

September 15th, 2010
4:14 pm

Bill, If you think UGA can start 0-2 and still win the SEC East, you need to get rid of the rose colored glasses. I agree that SC and even UF are beatable this year, but UF would have to lose at least 2 conference games even if UGA beats them and SC would need to lose 3 beacuase they have the tiebreaker over the Dawgs. By the way, based on recent history, there’s no reason to think UGA will beat even a very beatable UF team. Kentucky and Auburn will also be a challenge.

haters are skaters

September 15th, 2010
4:19 pm

Gatorbait, you are the delusional one. NEWSFLASH…..colleges started playing football prior to 1990. Get your head out of your *ss. Are you aware of your not so proud history of fl football prior to 1990……or by not referring to it, you hope that no one else will remember?

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:20 pm

I agree with most of your post until attack me. Just what part of stating facts and records is classless?

how2fish

September 15th, 2010
4:21 pm

Roll Tide thank you for your rant..now every team in the SEC has reason to hate your program. Can’t argue with your success the last couple of years…but where you the last decade? Let us be honest here you may/do have a really good team..but you don’t scare anyone every team in the SEC will show up every week and you will have to beat them they won’t be forfeiting any games…and all that beat down the Gators talk is so much hot air until you actually win the first game..and I hate the Gators but sonny disrespect them at your own peril !

ryan

September 15th, 2010
4:21 pm

Has Mallit been challenged no UGA is angry and there playing at home the Hogs are not SC no defense .

ga gator

September 15th, 2010
4:23 pm

Enough of the Roll Tide Gator arguments! The Tide owned everyone prior to the conference being split into which provided for a Championship game and insured everyone played a somewhat similar schedule. The Tide dominated before that or at least until the Bear declined. Of course dare we mention that the Bear dominated before there were scholarship limitations? I’ll leave that one alone.

David

September 15th, 2010
4:24 pm

Well guys..enjoy your arguments over why UF or UA are better on a UGA blog…my posts on the actual topic are apparently being censored,

Scooter

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:24 pm

Look boys and girls, I live through the Dooley year’s and before. I have seen Georgia be dominate, but what goes around comes around. But I seriously don’t think that will happen with Richt in charge, which happens to be sentiments of a least half the dawg fans on this blog.

Sweat Socks

September 15th, 2010
4:24 pm

The fact that Kentucky is now a challenge (a challenge Richt hasn’t been up to, lately) says it all.

We need a new direction for this program. If Richt can deliver, great. But nothing shows me that he can deliver a new direction for UGA football.

Dawg Fud

September 15th, 2010
4:27 pm

I don’t know that Richt’s job is in trouble this year but let’s face it…McGarity easily becomes the best AD we ever had (in the eyes of some) if he hires the next great coach and we win a national title Murray’s senior year.

I think McGarity is up for that challenge after being the number two guy at Florida during their successful run in football and basketball.

I’m just saying…there may be a certain alum in Tuscaloosa that wants the head job, not the DC job.

The only competition Georgia would have for Kirby is Chapel Hill.

DawginLex

September 15th, 2010
4:30 pm

I hope richt turns things around.

If he doesn’t McGarrity will go after a proven coach, not a coach wannabee. He will go after a winner who has already won big at another program

how2fish

September 15th, 2010
4:32 pm

What is Kirby Smarts record as a head coach in the SEC?

ryan

September 15th, 2010
4:32 pm

Dawg Fud you don’t want to loose those recruits UGA putting together a good class you don’t wan tot risk throwing that away now i do think if Bobo has a another bad game he could be dismissed .

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:32 pm

Fish,

Come on man, you are one of the reasonable fans, I don’t HATE the dogs, I just want to win the game, that’s why it’s called a rivalry. You don’t have to hate to be enthusiastic.

Look, my daughter graduated from Georgia and I’m for the dawgs every where except Jax. I even had Georgia season ticket for 20 years during the Walker, Terry Hoage years, now Hoage was a football player the best DB, rover I ever have seen.

Let’s just lighten up.

valleyboy32

September 15th, 2010
4:37 pm

All i’m saying is we “as for the state of GA.” just want want a contender almost 10 million people live in this state and you mean to tell me we cant put a top 5 or 10 team in country consistantly between TECH an GA. That just erks me why has it have to be this way cant depend on the DAWGS, TECH, FALCONS,lets not talk about the BRAVES my only hope is high school kids thats pathetic GO PEACH COUNTY TROJANS

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:38 pm

DawginLex

September 15th, 2010
4:30 pm
I hope richt turns things around.

If he doesn’t McGarrity will go after a proven coach, not a coach wannabee. He will go after a winner who has already won big at another program

Not to worry, you struck gold with McGarrity, the Gators hated to lose him, but on the other hand glad to see him get a position he deserved. He had alot to do with hiring Meyer, so he knows how to get it down. He will be great for ya’ll. I just hope not too great.

dave

September 15th, 2010
4:43 pm

Big Dawg you are an idiot.

Haters!!

September 15th, 2010
4:45 pm

Other than Bama not sure any team looks that great. Your time is going to come!

ryan

September 15th, 2010
4:47 pm

Gatorbait 17-3 your right i wish we all could have just a civilized conversation with out all the nasty gutter trash that been said on here i respect Florida and Meyer they have beat are brains out fair and square i just don’t know why people wont recognize that we have 2 Sugar Bowl wins .

tell me gain

September 15th, 2010
4:53 pm

All of you fumbling, bumbling posters who want CMR’s job – he’s the best coach UGA’s ever had – so, I guess that means you REALLY wanted all of the previous coaches fired too, right? I just love it when so called fans and football geniuses think they know more than the guys in the trenches with the kids – you guys are a real piece of work – you don’t know squat – just sit down and watch the game and enjoy the real meaning of the sport – if you even know or can comprehend what that might be. These dawgs will be fine – you act like you want to win more than the coaches and kids – you can’t even comprehend – not even sniff how badly these kids want to play and win. All you can do is pound on your chests and blow air out your mouth with your stupid and baseles opinions. I say – GO DAWGS! BEAT THE PIGS!

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
4:57 pm

Both Florida and Georgia fans hope their team improves as the season goes on, after 2 weeks of less than championship football. This weekend could be a preview of the Jax game. The Gators have Tenn. in Knoxville Sat and the dawgs have them at home Oct 9th.

Let’s see how things play out.

Chris

September 15th, 2010
5:02 pm

Um??? “Mark Richt knows a big game when he sees one”???? Really?

Did he know that S.C. was a big game? It sure looked like it seeing how well prepared his team was?

Bill? Seriously???

Would you please remove your lips from Mark Richt’s buttox. Wake up and smell the coffee dude. We have under achieved for the last 3 years. Nothing has changed, Richt hasn’t corrected our problems, he didn’t fire Bobo when he should have, and now we have to suffer yet another year of horrible play callling. I can only hope that Grantham knows how to make adjustments. This weekend will be the real test of Grantham’s coaching ability. If we improve on defense, and play the way we should be, then he might be a keeper.

However, when the season is over, Bobo and Richt, YES Bill, RICHT! should be FIRED! It is time to ignore Richt’s excuses for why we play bad, why we are never prepared for the big games, why we never show up, and basically look lost as we did Saturday. The man has either lost it, or just doesn’t care anymore.

Changes must be made. Wake up Bill!

A Real DAWG Fan

September 15th, 2010
5:12 pm

Bravo, “tell me gain”. Probably the best thing I’ve ever read in an AJC Blog. Couldn’t agree more.

acdc1996

September 15th, 2010
5:14 pm

A Real DAWG Fan – you cannot be a grad from UGA. All you do is spend your time on this blog. Late.

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
5:15 pm

Chris

Damn what an expert you must be. You have figured out all of the problems of the Dawgs in just what, 2 games?

FLA DAWG

September 15th, 2010
5:20 pm

How Sad Is This!? A MUST WIN 3RD GAME!?

FIRE RICHT GET SMART

FLA DAWG

September 15th, 2010
5:22 pm

GET SMART FIRE RICHT

GADAWG88

September 15th, 2010
5:24 pm

I’m a huge dawg fan 100% and I love Coach Richt. I have always supported him but there is no doubt that our team lacks fire and discipline in some big games. That can’t happen. I don’t want things to end badly at UGA for Coach Richt but if he were to be replaced, I kinda think we should take a hard look at Kyle Whittingham the coach from Utah. It seems many people don’t consider him but he’s a great coach that does a lot with a little at Utah. Anybody remember what they did to BAMA in the Sugar Bowl 2 years ago?

what is your problem

September 15th, 2010
5:27 pm

CMR knows a big game when he sees it?? What happened in SC last week? And why is it – it seems – that EVERY season there is a MUST win game??
CMR will never win a NC while a head coach.

what is your problem

September 15th, 2010
5:37 pm

To TrueDawg – you state “Does anyone really know how hard it is to win 10 games EVERY year for the stretch that Ga did? IN THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE!?!?” Well, TrueDawg, when you play a pretty weak SEC schedule (yes, UGA should beat Ole MIss, Miss State, KY, Vandy, and most seasons Auburn and SC) – then if you take your annual beat-down from Florida, or a TN, or (in the good years) a Auburn – then that is easily a 10 game season in the SEC. CMR has a LOSING record when playing teams of any substance in the SEC.

drzlstrangelovejr

September 15th, 2010
5:42 pm

Roll Tide, and all the other alabama fans, this is for you. You suck, paul bryant sucks. All of you need to take sabans member out of your mouth, it affects your brain. alabama does not have national interest as all you think. Well. maybe most of the nation hates them.
paul bryant was the cheatenist coach in history. He signed players just to keep Auburn
from signing them.bryant was very afraid to fairly compete.He is absolutely THE most overrated coach ever.

valleyboy32

September 15th, 2010
5:48 pm

JUST WANT A WINNER AT UGA

sammiamm

September 15th, 2010
5:54 pm

All hyperbole aside, all games are critical in an SEC season–period. This conference is tuff stuff and NC’s are in play and on the line (unlike ACC–sorry) . That’s why I love the conference and everything it represents–and I’m from Canada. It’s kinda like Original Six hockey games. History and bragging rights and pedigrees and cup counts. Awesome stuff. looking forward to a nail-biter Saturday. Dog offense beats Hog defense by a sliver.

ryan

September 15th, 2010
5:57 pm

Appeal on AJ Green will be known by Friday .

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
6:00 pm

Sammiam

Good Post. I agree. Even Vanderbilt is a must win. All SEC games are a “must win”

Gatorbait 17-3

September 15th, 2010
6:01 pm

GADAWG88

Kyle Whittingham the coach from Utah. You are right about this guy, he was the OC for Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, went with Meyer to Utah, again the OC and became HC when Meyer left fot Florida. He is a good one.

Chris

September 15th, 2010
6:06 pm

ARdawg, I guess I atleast know more than you.

It’s not just 2 games. It’s the same problems that have been there for a long time with Mark Richt coached teams. A lack of fundamentals, no desire, players have the same ho hum attitude as Richt, never showing up for big games, and looking just plain flat.

That’s not something I’ve observed over two games. It’s been a negative aspect of Richt’s teams that has always been there. Those same problmes came to the surface against Carolina.

It okay ARdawg. Maybe you will be able to read into the problems of a team someday. I just hope our new AD makes the changes that are necessary.

Brock

September 15th, 2010
6:09 pm

September 15, 2010, 5:25 PM ETChris Hawkins faces drug By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com
Archive
MADISON, Ga. — The former North Carolina defensive back who is accused of buying University of Georgia receiver A.J. Green’s jersey is facing felony drug charges in Georgia.

Chris Hawkins, who played at North Carolina from 2001-03 before finishing his college career at Marshall, was arrested by Georgia State Patrol officers on April 23, 2009 on felony charges of trafficking cocaine and misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana.

According to a police report obtained by ESPN.com on Wednesday, Hawkins was pulled over by a Georgia State Patrol officer while driving a U-haul moving truck on I-20 near Madison, Ga., which is about 60 miles east of Atlanta. The report said Hawkins was cited for driving without wearing a seat belt, and officers later discovered a small amount of marijuana in his pocket.

After Hawkins refused to allow officers to search the contents of the moving truck, a drug-detecting dog indicated drugs were in the back of the box truck. According to the police report, officers discovered a paper sack containing a baseball-sized amount of base cocaine, which weighed about three ounces and was covered in peanut butter and pepper.

Hawkins, from Kinston, N.C., spent 20 days in the Morgan County (Ga.) Detention Center until he was released on $50,000 bail. Hawkins is scheduled to appear in Morgan County Superior Court on Oct. 18.

“I’m not involved with any kind of drugs,” Hawkins told ESPN’s Joe Schad. “Never have in the past and never will be. And no one I’m associated with is involved in any such thing. I’m innocent.”

So the weed just magically appeared in your pocket? Yeah right? I hope AJ is not involved any further with this guy other than just the jersey. Could be bad.

Man Enough

September 15th, 2010
6:25 pm

I hate to say this, but Richt asking us fans to be there and get loud sounds like he knows we are in trouble. Why does he feel the need to ask this? Have we the fans not been supportive enough? Sounds like he is at witts end and is desperate. I will be there and will be loud, I just hope the secondary and the offense is there also. GATA!