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

Billy Jack could fight

September 15th, 2010
6:25 pm

Does Dooley have dementia….?? Kansas St…?? was that a joke..??

Dawg 39

September 15th, 2010
6:49 pm

If CMR had taken over the OC job, or hired his NFL brother in law, or fired Bobo, or hired any OC that is curently employed In the SEC, The Dawgs would still have been 6 & 2 over the last 8 games, would not have a higher per game scoring average, & would not have any better chance to beat the Hogs than they currently do.
When you jump on me, remember preseason I said the 4 best teams we face this year are: #1=USCe, #2=ARK., #3=Gators, & #4 Auburn. You have to have an elite program to beat any of those teams this year. The Dawgs compare with all of them, at least in my opinion.

ARdawg

September 15th, 2010
7:27 pm

Chris

Yes I do hope to be as clairvoyant as thee oh Great Swami

Flatsdawg1

September 15th, 2010
7:47 pm

Yea , this is a large game with larger implications. Well, the 3-4 should fare better especially if we can get to the QB early on but it’s gonna come down to murray making plays that Bobo calls. Let’s pray he shows some imagination. please run that statue of liberty play Richt, I got a good feeling about that play!!

Glenn

September 15th, 2010
7:55 pm

UGA could have one the SC game but did not really deserve it. I really look for them to win against Ark. Sat but if they dont boy is the pressure going to be on. Ga. can contend for the East if it gels in time. Unfortunately time is not on our side. Somebody needs to step up. Give the old ball coach our team and we would be a top 5 team by week number 5. Thats just my opinion.

Glenn

September 15th, 2010
8:00 pm

Bobo may have to go. I predicted SC to score 17 and Ga upper 20’s or low 30’s boy was I wrong.

Browndog

September 15th, 2010
8:21 pm

SC has a good football team, the best that Spurrier has had since going to SC so just maybe SC IS that much better than UGA? A running game changes everything and the SEC will have to deal with Lattimore for the next few years. Lattimore’s emergence, if he continues to run like he did against UGA, will be a draw for recruits that want to play with him and could cause even more problems for UGA than losing the game Saturday.

Saturday should be a good game with the edge going to Arkansas.

you know...

September 15th, 2010
8:32 pm

READ THIS! you know who cares REALLY. Weve got to watch/do this for the next f*@#king 200years or till the four horsemen ride in. It’ll ALWAYS be something different wrong to pinpoint every year. Take what life gives, or become a damn coach and stop F@*#King complaining, you know…

SSIgator

September 15th, 2010
8:44 pm

Girls! GIRLS!! Stop it now!!! Like how2fish said, a knife fight breaks out between Bama and UF fans? On a UGA blog? Calm down. If anyone can not take a little ribbing on a blog about UGA, take up gardening or something else less emotional. I have never said anything negative about UA or cussed out any UGA fans (as others tend to do) on any blog site. Good grief. Don’t worry UGA, 2011 will be here before you know it. 1980 – so long ago.

SonofaDawg

September 15th, 2010
9:39 pm

Anybody want to bet me UGA will beat Ar-Kansas?

UGAVIII

September 15th, 2010
9:44 pm

CMR is double teaming Murray because he knows Bobo has put him on the hot seat. CMR is a very smart guy. He has to know Bobo’s playcalling isn’t getting the job done on offense. And, his QB coaching isn’t getting it done in practice.

If my $2 million per year job were in jeopardy, I would be watching Bobo and Murray like a hawk!

saban

September 15th, 2010
10:16 pm

dawgs lose by 30.

Richt throws his purse at ref.

tndawg

September 15th, 2010
10:52 pm

Maybe if we wear black jerseys and black helmets!……..

col fot

September 15th, 2010
11:28 pm

I’m a die hard Georgia fan, but there are problems in Athens town. These players sitting out of practice and games because they get their bell rung, sprain something or get bruised a little…thats football!!! To play hard nosed defense you’ve got to be mean and aggressive every play and that means getting after your opponents @ss every play. Football is a violent game and meant to be played that way. This arm tackling want get it..you’ve got to hit that back with force and bulldog him to the ground…thats just fundamental football. Arkansas and Miss. ST are very loseable games if that attitude doesn’t change.

Mayor of Titletown

September 15th, 2010
11:55 pm

I guess last Saturday wasn’t a big game. Now I feel better about the Dawgs chances.

THIS IS A.D.MCGARITY & RICHT IM WATCHIN U!

September 15th, 2010
11:57 pm

NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO THIS YEAR SAINT MARK RICHT,YOU ARE GONE BUDDY AT THE END OF THE YEAR!

Ph.D

September 16th, 2010
12:23 am

Pay attention coaches. Order your players to score more points than the other team and you should win. It’s really very simple.

icedawg

September 16th, 2010
12:32 am

Man, what a bunch of whingers.

JPaul63

September 16th, 2010
12:34 am

It is a “must win” for the dawgs! We gave our mulligan away last week in Columbia! We can win out and get to ATL for the SEC Championship! AR and MSU are in the way!!! Win both and we are in!!!

Casual Observer

September 16th, 2010
12:36 am

College Football is a game dudes – chill out. Sure I love wining but you folks need to get a life. If your life is centered around 18 – 22 year old kids giving your life meaning you are beyond hope.

JPaul63

September 16th, 2010
12:37 am

Richt is here as long as he wants to be! Go away you na-sayers! Grantham will right the ship- the only question mark is Bobo and I think he will evolve as we get better. (He does need to stay ahead of the curve)!!!!!!!!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Old Dawg

September 16th, 2010
3:16 am

Ah! Makes me think of the 50’s; Tech beating us 8 straight times, UGA (except for 1959) terrible. Then Vince came to town; 1969 was a good year, Nebraska squeaked out a victory over us in the Sun Bowl, 50-6, I believe. A National Championship in 1980, completely destroying an average Notre Dame, 17-10, in the Sugar Bowl (Good thing they gave us the game; Belue completed one pass).

How did we get Richt? Bring back the good ole days.

cantondawg

September 16th, 2010
4:51 am

Bigdawg,

You have got to be one of the stupidest people on earth. Vangorder to replace Richt. You’ve got to be kidding. Van Gorder absolutely sucked as a HC.

Dawgs Roll

September 16th, 2010
6:54 am

Relax—the Dawgs win this game easy. Ark’s D is terrible and UGA’s RBs should run through that D like a hot knife through butter. Grantham’s 3-4 will control mallet and limit him to a couple of plays. Dawgs 38 Ark 13

SickandTired

September 16th, 2010
7:29 am

So now the Dawg Nation wants to run Bobo out of town on a rail…..Martinez gone, Bobo now hated and perceived to be the problem….what’s the common thread here. Is Mark Richt the only Head Coach in history that holds no responsibility? If that’s the case for crying out loud why is he paid $3 million a year?

Swampdawg

September 16th, 2010
8:23 am

Richt and McGarity need to address their “Non Diversity” issue ! Too many kids running around bouncing off tackles. Not enough strength on the Team!

HOG FAN

September 16th, 2010
8:25 am

I SMELL PIG-SEWEREEEEEE ALL OVER THE FIELD…ARKANSAS 43-GEORGIA 10..GO HOGS…POOP ALL ON THE DOGS!

Like last year

September 16th, 2010
8:46 am

Hog FAN…..LIKE LAST YEAR???? How will the hogs handle a desperate buzz saw…..

The Comedy Club

September 16th, 2010
8:52 am

And to think the Dawgs love this guy; not as much as the rest of the SEC. Blogs are a bad thing; it gives too many people a voice on firing coaches. Keep him forever please, please………………

Ron Zook

September 16th, 2010
8:53 am

Cantondawg, I liked van gorders

ddt

September 16th, 2010
9:35 am

I say fire Russ the halfbreed mascot and get a pure white inbred bulldog, that will turn things around and make everyone play and coach better.

LogicalUS

September 16th, 2010
9:37 am

I see that there are still the last vestigates of the ole UGA delusion running around this article.

Last week, it was UGA was so loaded with weapons that they were going to forego the bid for a MNC and jump straight to the NFL Superbowl to await whatever NFL team was foolish enough to want to play them.

Then SC exposed that as said last week, UGA is very mediocre. With Green missing, there was not a single UGA player which would have started over the SC player at any position. SC was better at WR, RB, OL, DL, S, CB, FB and LB. Some of the UGA players would not make the three deep at SC.

Now the UGA tingle brigade of writers at the AJC are fantazising about other teams losing games with asinine thought that this cast of nothings is going to run thru the rest of their schedule? Why? Based on UGA running against GaTech, the worst defense in the ACC? Really? Did any of you geniuses not look at the absolutely horrible condition of Tech defense last season?

This is still the same UGA team which got punked in Athens by a no-QB Kentucky team last year?

DawgByte

September 16th, 2010
9:53 am

Bottom line: It’s a must win game if we have any aspirations of winning the SEC East – it’s that simple.

Can anyone on this board answer this question:

What is the profile of UGA’s football team? Can you point to a particular style of play or central theme that would describe our program? I can look at programs like Alabama, Southern Cal, Florida, Oregon and many others and say they’re identity is X or Y. One of our problems may be that we don’t really have a clearly defined identity. When Richt first came to Georgia he tried to bring some of the FSU identity, through his offensive strategy. He learned after the first year that FSU didn’t play well in the SEC, because you had to run to win. What is our identity? I know I can’t answer that question.

erika

September 16th, 2010
10:00 am

DawgByte

September 16th, 2010
10:08 am

LogicalUS -

Those are harsh comments, but essentially you’re correct. I think the personnel is by-and-large overrated. I’ve been saying for two years that our OL is not nearly as good as people think. However, we may not be as bad as you think, as well. Aaron Murray is an Elite 11 winner and was recently voted the second best Elite 11 QB to go through that program, behind Matt Stafford. Washaun Ealey had an impressive HS career, breaking every HS rushing record in the State. Is the size of his HS ultimately an inadequate indicator of his true talents? The jury is still out, but I think he’s pretty good.

There are plenty of other programs that are going through their own set of issues. You may feel that a single program can stay on top forever, but I think you’d be on a lonely island looking around for people who concur with you.

dawgman

September 16th, 2010
11:18 am

Hogs 41 Dogs 17
Bobo won’t be able to score that many points.

NYC Dawg

September 16th, 2010
11:38 am

Bobo is the reason for all of our issues on offense. His play calling is extremely predicatable. If CMR still called plays, there would be no issues. Bobo needs to go back to just coaching QB’s…

DawgPound132

September 16th, 2010
11:41 am

Ha….it’s going to be a tough day for us against Mallet and co…no way their defense is as bad as last year and our offense is worse. Could get ugly before half

tndawg

September 16th, 2010
4:08 pm

Saturday I’ll be satisfied with minor improvements. Such as, scoring at least one TD…..last week after four quarters of football… two field goals….Dawgs have got a long way to go.