Mark Richt’s Bulldogs kept all their season hopes alive with Saturday’s 34-31 overtime win over Tennessee but, man, what a costly victory.
The fates seemed stacked against the Dogs as the UGA sideline looked like a triage area, with three key offensive playmakers — Keith Marshall, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley — all helped off the field with demoralizing knee injuries, forcing Georgia to rely on a pair of relatively untested backs and a decimated receiving corps.
But with a gritty next-man-up attitude that saw little-used senior Rantavious Wooten catch six passes and score two TDs and true freshman tailback J.J. Green run for 129 yards, Georgia managed to pull it out before a noisy UT crowd, thanks in part to a sudden about-face by Lady Luck when the Vols’ Pig Howard lost control of the ball diving for the end zone in overtime, resulting in a touchback and Georgia’s ball.
With a trip to Knoxville at hand, it’s a subject some skittish fans don’t even want to talk about, but thanks to the big win over LSU, the Dawgs still find themselves in BCS contention despite the opening loss to Clemson. Could a one-loss SEC champion not called Alabama jump over an undefeated team (say, Ohio State) that’s played a lesser schedule? No way to know yet, but it’s nice to at least still be in the conversation.
However, what if we already were in the four-team playoff system to be introduced next season, where would Georgia stand?
According to USA Today’s weekly mock Football Four Playoff Projections, the win over LSU pushed Georgia up to the No. 5 spot and the Bulldogs even got one first-place vote for the first time.
“Georgia moves into my top-four this week based on the strength of its wins against LSU and South Carolina, and the fact the one loss was on the road (and by
The Georgia-Tennessee series may no longer generate quite the excitement of a few years back — UGA says it returned unsold about a thousand of its 8,500 ticket allotment for Saturday’s game against the Vols — but noisy Neyland Stadium is still an intimidating place to play.
And with UGA fans concerned about a possible letdown after the Bulldogs’ big, emotional win over LSU — and history having shown us that even extremely talented Georgia teams can come a cropper when visiting Knoxville— this is not a week for complacency in the Bulldog Nation.
How do they feel about it up on Rocky Top? For that, as usual, I decided to go to my old Volunteer pal Joey Ledford, who always provides us a reasonable, good-humored Big Orange viewpoint. Take it away, Joe …
Hi Dawg fans.
Bill has kindly asked me to do this for several seasons now, and this is the toughest year so far to write about our game. To be
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
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
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
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
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
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
After 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