Archive for November, 2013

As the karmic wheel turns: Richt and Georgia face another ex-Dawg

Mark Richt takes an unusual approach to players dismissed from his program. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Mark Richt takes an unusual approach to players dismissed from his program. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Among the many other things he is, Mark Richt appears to have become the leading supplier of starting SEC quarterbacks.

Three of this year’s SEC starting quarterbacks originally signed with Georgia. Which says good things about Richt’s nose for talent.

But two of them are now leading the offense at other schools as a result of Richt’s strict disciplinary policies: LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Auburn’s Nick Marshall.

I don’t know whether it’s happened before where a college team has to face two Top 10 conference rivals in the same season, both of whom have starting quarterbacks that used to be on the first team, but I imagine it’s pretty rare.

For one thing, not many coaches would kick a player good enough to be an SEC starter off their team, no matter what they did, and even fewer would allow the departed player to sign with another team in the same conference.

In an era when many …

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Dogs’ performance raises both hopes and concerns as Auburn looms

Aaron Murray was Georgia's second-leading runner Saturday. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Aaron Murray was Georgia's second-leading runner Saturday. (Jason Getz / AJC)

A few more notes from Saturday’s relative breather as the No. 25 Dogs prepare to take on another Top 10 foe in a nationally televised CBS broadcast. …

Let’s face it, getting a team up for a nonconference Homecoming opponent like Appalachian State is a lot different from getting them ready to take on a traditional rival that’s become one of the nation’s hottest teams — especially in the Mark Richt organization. So while I’m pretty hopeful that against Auburn we won’t see the sort of laid-back, unfocused play we saw from both the offense and defense in the first half Saturday, there’s always last year’s South Carolina game lingering in my memory to make me feel a bit uneasy.

Yes, I do feel that, even without all the weapons Mike Bobo had at the season’s start, Georgia is capable of outlasting Auburn in an offensive shootout — but not if they wait too long to get on track.

Along those lines, I think …

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Sluggish start mars an otherwise impressive day for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs

Aaron Murray throws his record-setting touchdown pass against Appalachian State. (Ryon Horne / AJC)

Aaron Murray throws his record-setting touchdown pass against Appalachian State. (Ryon Horne / AJC)

Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray notched his third SEC record in Saturday’s Homecoming game against Appalachian State, topping Florida’s Danny Wuerffel to take the conference career touchdown record with 115.

And next year’s presumed starting QB, Hutson Mason, finally got into a game and for the most part looked sharp with his passing in mop-up duty as the Bulldogs won the game by the kind of margin most people expected: 45-6.

But that’s not what fans were talking about as they departed Sanford Stadium on a cool, slightly overcast autumn afternoon.

No, the good things accomplished by the Dogs Saturday — which, frankly, were expected — were overshadowed by the sluggish performance Georgia gave in the first half, as the Dogs came out (somewhat predictably) flat and sloppy in the wake of last week’s big win over the Gators, leading the game at halftime by just 14-6.

It …

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UGA fans still seeking someone to blame for unexpected losses

Aaron Murray goes for another record Saturday. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Aaron Murray goes for another record Saturday. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

As the Dogs prepare to take on rising Sun Belt Conference member Appalachian State Saturday in this year’s Homecoming game, you can bet on three things: 1. Georgia’s coaches have mentioned this week the 2007 upset in which the Mountaineers beat Michigan thanks at least in part to a blocked field goal. 2. If the Dogs run true to form, there’ll be at least some letdown in emotion and focus the week after a big win. 3. It unfortunately is likely to be a late-arriving crowd thanks to the 12:30 p.m. kickoff.

However, the current App State isn’t anywhere near as strong a team as in 2007, and with Georgia’s first-teamers at least starting the game and Aaron Murray set to break Danny Wuerffel’s SEC career touchdown pass record on what should be a beautiful fall day, perhaps there won’t be as many empty seats as at some of these nonconference games.

Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. Despite the big …

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Bowl projections for Dawgs include Tampa, Jacksonville, Atlanta and Nashville

Where will the Bulldogs go bowling this season? (Associated Press)

Where will the Bulldogs go bowling this season? (Associated Press)

With just a month remaining in the regular season, bowl projections are kicking into high gear. Most projections have 11 SEC teams in postseason play, and it’s interesting that there’s basically no consensus on where Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs will wind up.

Checking a sampling of nine of the better-known sources offering projections, I found three see the Dogs returning to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl, two have Georgia penciled in for the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta, two see them falling behind Ole Miss in the pecking order and landing at the Music City in Nashville and, surprisingly, two project Georgia to go bowling at the Outback in Tampa.

These projections don’t come with predictions of how the rest of the season will play out for the Dogs, but it’s pretty obvious by the placement of Auburn that many expect the resurgent Tigers to beat Georgia this year.

For example, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel has …

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Lots of highs and lows for Dawgs in roller-coaster win over Gators

Garrison Smith had a big day for the Georgia defense. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Garrison Smith had a big day for the Georgia defense. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Some more thoughts and observations from Georgia’s win over Florida. …

My wife Leslie likes to quote a frequent saying from her old basketball coach about a loss being a loss no matter how many points it was by. To put a reverse spin on that, a win by 3 points means every bit as much as winning by 20 or more points. Especially when it’s over Florida.

Still, considering the roller-coaster ride the Georgia Bulldogs took us on in Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, it’s understandable that sportswriters were unimpressed and many fans were, like Mark Richt, feeling a bit subdued after the game.

Maybe it’s the historian in me, but I took the long view: a third consecutive win over the hated Gators was still reason to celebrate, no matter how ugly it was.

Of course, as is to be expected of such an up-and-down game — which began with Georgia racking up an incredible 250-plus yards of offense in the first quarter …

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Third straight win over Gators sweet for Dogs, no matter how close

Todd Gurley scores on a big first-quarter play for the Dogs. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Todd Gurley scores on a big first-quarter play for the Dogs. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

The Dogs’ hard-fought, fractious 23-20 win Saturday over Florida in Jacksonville left UGA fans about as gassed as Todd Gurley, but that didn’t make Georgia’s third consecutive victory in the fabled series any less sweet.

Yes, the Bulldogs took their eyes off the prize for about a quarter and a half in the second half, just as surely as Artie Lynch took his eyes off the ball on that dropped screen pass that turned into a fumbled lateral and gave the Gators the big break they needed to get them back into the game.

And with the Gator players constantly trying to provoke Georgia players into dead-ball infractions, there’s no doubt that the Bulldogs lost composure for most of the dismal third quarter.

But in the end it was another big game that ended with Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs offense killing more than 8 minutes of clock with a scrappy fourth-quarter drive that preserved a win.

I don’t know …

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What do the Dogs have to do to notch a third straight win over the Gators?

The return of Todd Gurley could be the single most important key to a Georgia win over Florida. (Associated Press)

The return of Todd Gurley could be the single most important key to a Georgia win over Florida. (Associated Press)

It’s been a crazy year in the SEC. You could field a pretty potent all-star team with players who are out for the season or are missing multiple games with injuries. Actually, you could do it just with the injured players from Georgia and Florida.

And so it is that two teams that were expected to be among the nation’s best limp into their annual grudge match at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, where only one will emerge with even an outside chance of being a contender in the SEC East.

Shorthand on this game goes like this: Georgia is bad on defense (ranking 58th nationally in total defense, 101st in scoring defense) but Florida is even worse on offense (outside the Top 100 in total offense, scoring offense and red zone scoring percentage). Meanwhile, Georgia used to be really good on offense, before injuries took out a bunch of its key playmakers, but the Dogs …

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