Archive for September, 2013

Having survived ‘ridiculous’ September, Dawgs must now stay hungry

The Dawgs, including Michael Bennett, have plenty of reason to celebrate. (Jason Getz / AJC)

The Dawgs, including Michael Bennett, have plenty of reason to celebrate. (Jason Getz / AJC)

I don’t think I can ever recall an opening month like the “ridiculous September” (as CBS’ Tracy Wolfson put it) that Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs just experienced.

But, let’s face it, after getting themselves pumped up to play three Top 10 teams, what might be an even bigger challenge faces the No. 6-ranked Dawgs: keeping their eye on the prize as they’re favored to win the rest of their regular season games.

Aaron Murray is hoping the lessons learned in September will be applied the rest of the way. “It’s been a brutal first month,” he told ESPN Saturday night. “I think we’ve grown up a lot. I think we’ve proved to the nation that Georgia’s for real.”

But, he said with the next breath, there’s still a long way to go and a lot of games to play. “We’ve got to keep getting better,” he said, and “stay hungry.”

So far in the 2013 season, Richt has done one of his best coaching jobs in …

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Georgia-LSU: One of the most thrilling days ever Between the Hedges

Freshman J.J. Green had one of the day's biggest runs. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Freshman J.J. Green had one of the day's biggest runs. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Georgia’s 44-41 win over LSU wasn’t just a thrilling game or an important victory for the Dogs.

It was a proud day for the Bulldog Nation, too. I’ve been going to Georgia football games for 50 years and I can say without hesitation that was the loudest I’ve ever heard Sanford Stadium from first kickoff to final whistle. On that last futile drive by LSU, particularly the fourth-down incompletion, the place was literally vibrating with a decibel level that must have approached that of a jet engine.

A spine-tingling moment that never will be forgotten by the fans who were there.

Overall, from “GameDay” on the Myers quad to the terrific “Awaken the Nation” pregame video to the team coming back out on the field 10 minutes after they’d gone to the locker room to celebrate some more, it was one of the most electrifying game day atmospheres imaginable. And thanks to the “redout” and the fact that a free red …

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Key for Georgia and LSU is likely to be up front

Mark Richt wants a sea of red at Sanford Stadium Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Mark Richt wants a sea of red at Sanford Stadium Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

If you’re going to Athens for Saturday’s game, be sure to wear red, like the Dawgs. Mark Richt has called for fans to stage another “Redout,” as was done previously for last year’s Tennessee game and for the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. And get there early and be loud, like at the South Carolina game. It really does make a difference for the players!

This third of Georgia’s herculean September challenges is chock full of the sort of storylines “ESPN College GameDay” and CBS love, from the return home of prodigal son Zach Mettenberger to go up against former roomie Aaron Murray, to the clash of coaching styles between low-key disciplinarian Richt and quixotic put-it-to-a-team-vote Les Miles, aka the Mad Hatter.

But while this quintessential big game — which could determine whether Georgia remains in BCS contention — will feature two of the most dangerous passing arms in the SEC, the key to …

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A tale of two quarterbacks: Murray and Mettenberger

Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray enrolled at UGA together. (AJC file)

Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray enrolled at UGA together. (AJC file)

Athens area native and former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger returns to Sanford Stadium this week wearing LSU’s purple and gold — and to hear some people tell it, the prodigal son will be out to reclaim the birthright that should have been his.

Or some such hogwash.

We all know the history: Aaron Murray and Mettenberger were both highly ranked prospects coming out of high school. I first saw Mettenberger play when he was still at Oconee County High School and was impressed with his size and his arm. He looked like a classic pro-style quarterback prospect, but he was awfully raw and not very mobile. He and Murray, who had come back from a broken leg to lead his high school team to a championship, both enrolled early at UGA, took redshirt seasons while Joe Cox was the starting QB, and then did battle with Logan Gray for the starting spot behind center in the spring of 2010.

The battle mainly was …

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No ‘jinx’ talk: Georgia doesn’t lose because of ‘GameDay’ or black jerseys

"GameDay" is returning to Athens. (ESPN)

"GameDay" is returning to Athens. (ESPN)

Some more random thoughts and observations from the North Texas game and looking ahead …

Another Top 10 matchup for the Dawgs has lured ESPN’s “College GameDay” back to Athens, meaning Georgia will be featured for the second time so far in this young season (they were also at Clemson).

While “GameDay” has been on hand for 14 games involving the Bulldogs over the years, this will be only the third visit to Athens. The last one was in 2008 for the “Blackout” game against Alabama, and the first was for the 1998 Tennessee game.

Before the fact that the Dawgs have won only three of their “GameDay” games launches too much “jinx” talk, let’s note that two of Georgia’s three wins where the show has been present took place in Tuscaloosa. And while it shouldn’t need saying, I’ll say it anyway: The Dawgs didn’t lose that 2008 game against Bama because of “GameDay” or black jerseys, just as they didn’t beat Bama in OT the previous year because of …

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Awful special team mistakes mar a pretty decent day for the Bulldogs

Reggie Davis catches a record-setting 98-yard touchdown pass. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Reggie Davis catches a record-setting 98-yard touchdown pass. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Georgia’s 45-21 win over Conference USA opponent North Texas was as messy as the day’s weather.

You know the drill: Mark Richt’s Bulldogs pulled it out in the end after making a contest against a designated loser a lot closer than it needed to be. But while the Mean Green tying the score at 21-21 early in the third quarter momentarily put a hush over a suddenly concerned Sanford Stadium crowd, the game — while certainly ugly — was not really as close as that might indicate.

The Dawgs’ offense amassed an incredible 641 yards to North Texas’ 245 and had twice as many first downs. Aaron Murray completed 22 of 30 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns (plus sneaked for another one). And Murray’s 100th career touchdown was something special — with Georgia backed up on its own 2 after a terrific North Texas punt, he hit freshman receiver Reggie Davis over the middle and the speedster then left …

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Fan talk: Quayvon fever, Georgia’s ‘3-4 Punch,’ Bulldog logos and more!

mean greenAfter a week off, the Bulldogs will be back in action Saturday as a Conference USA team named after the star of the most memorable Coca-Cola commercial comes to Athens, primarily to earn a $975,000 paycheck but also no doubt with dreams of pulling off the sort of shocker upset that Akron nearly got last week against Michigan.

Mark Richt has, you can be sure, reminded the Dawgs that they can’t get caught looking ahead to next week’s game with LSU. Still, the betting line on the game has Georgia favored by 32.5 points over the North Texas Mean Green and — barring key injuries, a spate of turnovers and a complete lack of focus on the part of the team in red — that sounds about right.

Saturday’s 12:21 p.m. kickoff may well take place under rainy skies, so breaking out the ponchos on the way to the stadium sounds like a good idea. Dawg Walk is set for 10:30 a.m.

The athletic association wants fans reminded that it’s now scanning tickets as you enter the gate, so those who wait …

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What’s your favorite of Aaron Murray’s 99 touchdown passes?

Aaron Murray prepares to throw a touchdown pass to Michael Bennett against Auburn in 2011.

Aaron Murray prepares to throw a touchdown pass to Michael Bennett against Auburn in 2011.

Aaron Murray was asked at Tuesday’s press gathering about what it feels like to be on the verge of becoming only the second-ever SEC quarterback to throw 100 touchdown passes.

Murray has 99 TD throws going into Saturday’s North Texas game. Florida’s Danny Wuerfel threw 114 during his time with the Gators, and chances are that’s another record Murray is going to take this season.

“It’s definitely been a successful three years and two games thus far,” the Bulldog quarterback said, “but hopefully there will be a lot more to come. That would be great.”

No. 11 remembers his first touchdown pass at UGA: a “little back-shoulder fade” to Kris Durham against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 4, 2010. As he noted, “that was a while ago.”

Does he have a favorite among his 99 touchdown passes? “Not really,” he said, but then he came up with one anyway: “I had one to Orson Charles vs. Georgia Tech my …

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Fan talk: Does Todd Grantham need to step it up?

Amarlo Herrera leads the conference in tackles. (Associated Press)

Amarlo Herrera leads the conference in tackles. (Associated Press)

Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail …

Mike Darnell writes: Bill, I was at the [South Carolina] game and was relieved by the outcome. At halftime, I was texting some friends to lament my belief that Georgia’s problem is the defense coordinated by Todd Grantham. I decided to do some research and came up with the following: In Grantham’s 4 seasons, and including only SEC, Georgia Tech and bowl games, the scoring average against Georgia is 24.3 points/game. Compare this to Willie Martinez’s last 4 seasons at 21.5 points; Van Gorder’s 4 seasons at 17.8 points and Bill Lewis’s last 4 seasons at 17.6 points. I then compared these same 4 defensive coordinators average points/game/loss over those same 4 years. They are: Grantham at 33.2 points/loss; Martinez at 32 points/loss; Van Gorder at 21 points/loss; and Bill Lewis at 22.5 points/loss. My point is that our offense must score an ungodly amount …

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Sanford Stadium crowds need to get loud more often

Mark Richt loved the fan engagement Saturday, which began at Dawg Walk. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Mark Richt loved the fan engagement Saturday, which began at Dawg Walk. (Jason Getz / AJC)

UGA may have the SEC’s best fan base (as rated in an Emory University study) but in recent years Sanford Stadium crowds haven’t always provided the sort of loud, boisterous “12th man” factor in games that the home team would prefer.

No wonder Mark Richt was all over social media last week with entreaties for Dawg fans to show up early, get loud and try and make it difficult for the Gamecocks to hear their offensive signals.

There was good reason for Richt’s ploy: Georgia had just lost a game at Clemson in a playing environment so loud the offensive line even had trouble with its silent signals, leading to a number of costly penalties and poor pass protection. Last year, South Carolina fans raised a remarkable din at Williams-Brice Stadium that seemingly rattled the Dawgs.

I don’t know how much our yelling this past Saturday really messed with South Carolina’s offense, but it certainly …

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