Richt says Georgia will be ‘knocking on the door’ of greatness

"Hot seat, huh? A little cold water will take care of that!" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"Hot seat, huh? A little cold water will take care of that!" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Tampa – Back in July he was being asked if he could turn it around. On the first day of 2012, Mark Richt was asked if Georgia had turned it around. And he said …

“I think so. I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re in a good place. We won 10 games, and when you win 10 games you’ve done well.”

Here he smiled. “Though 11 is better.”

Richt’s team can win its 11th game of a rebounding season by defeating Michigan State in the Outback Bowl on Monday. It won’t be easy — the Spartans rank fifth nationally in total defense, two spots behind Georgia — but being paired against a ranked opponent here beats the heck out of spending the holidays in Memphis readying to lose to Central Florida, which is where Georgia was 366 days ago.

A year ago we wondered — and by “we,” I mean “me” — if Richt was still the man for Georgia. Calendar 2012 begins with Richt negotiating a contract extension, which tells us Georgia believes he is. (About which Richt said: “We haven’t said anything [publicly regarding his contract] since we said we love each other.”)

The Bulldogs have been saying that the Outback is really the first game of 2012 on more than just the calendar, that it could propel them to a Top 10 preseason ranking, that the season ahead could be bigger and brighter than the one about to conclude. And it just might. Seventeen starters are scheduled to return, and some key figures among the Dream Team recruiting class haven’t made their collegiate presence felt.

Said Richt, speaking at a Sunday news briefing: “Some people believe in momentum. We have good positive momentum. In the future, we’re going to be in good shape. We had a taste of playing in the SEC championship game. We need to be able to finish, but we got the taste.”

A bit later, Richt was asked how he handled the criticism that stemmed from Georgia finishing 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 last season. “As the leader of the program, I can’t act like I’m fretting or I’m mad about something,” he said. Then this:

“We’re going to be knocking on the door of the greatest success you can have in college football, and if you knock long enough you’ll eventually break through.”

There was a time when a national championship seemed Richt’s manifest destiny. He came close in 2002, when his 12-1 Bulldogs missed the BCS title game only because Miami and Ohio State finished unbeaten, close again in 2007, when Georgia was excluded from the championship tilt but finished No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. The Bulldogs entered the next season ranked No. 1 but lasted only one week there, and the thrashing they were dealt by Alabama on Sept. 27, 2008, marked a watershed moment for both programs.

Alabama started playing for SEC and national championships again. Georgia went from the Sugar Bowl to the Capital One to the Independence to the Liberty, and Richt, once a hot young coach, was suddenly neither. He was on the far side of 50 and hadn’t won the SEC since 2005 and hadn’t taken his team to the BCS title game ever. The SEC is about to annex its sixth consecutive national championship, and Georgia has had no hand in any part of the run.

But that, too, could be changing. It’s true that Georgia didn’t play the most testing schedule — it won’t next year, either; is Richt living right or what? — but it’s also true that the Bulldogs began to win the sort of games they’d come to lose. They even gave LSU a go for a half. They weren’t quite ready to win such a game, but next year they might be. All things considered, you’d rather be Georgia than Florida or Tennessee or even South Carolina today.

“We’re in good shape going into the offseason,” Richt said, and Georgia undeniably is. But it wouldn’t hurt to beat a Top 25 team to round off this turnaround. (Though Georgia is favored by a field goal, Michigan State is ranked higher in the AP and USA Today polls.) Winning 10 games in a row was nice. Winning an 11th would be better still.

By Mark Bradley

351 comments Add your comment

BvgNeedsaHaircut

January 1st, 2012
4:49 pm

Dawgs gotta take care of business tomorrow

BvgNeedsaHaircut

January 1st, 2012
4:50 pm

oldTimeDawg

January 1st, 2012
4:53 pm

Let the games begin “Go Dawgs!”

Herschel Talker

January 1st, 2012
4:55 pm

MB:

It’s put up or shut up time.

HT

OkieDawg

January 1st, 2012
4:55 pm

It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog. And it’s great to not be a Yellow Jacket.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
4:58 pm

BvgNeeds … takes the kudos.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
4:58 pm

I kind of felt this was the put-up-or-shut-up year, HT.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:00 pm

with the contract extension will also arrive a hike in the contribution requirement and ticket price.

but as they say, you get what you pay for.

RS Dawg

January 1st, 2012
5:00 pm

I second that OkieDawg!!!

Scott

January 1st, 2012
5:01 pm

OF COURSE he’s saying that… have you SEEN the schedule next year???

You cant claim “but it’s the SEC!” when you dont play any of the teams in the conference who are any good.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:01 pm

Mark, aren’t you in negotiations with AJC on another long term contract extension?

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:03 pm

Making millions for writing what’s on one’s mind must be a superb way to make a living.

SanDiegoJacket

January 1st, 2012
5:03 pm

Let the “WE WILL WIN THE MNC NEXT YEAR,” begin.
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MIZZOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:04 pm

Millions of dollars; millions of readers; just a few enemies.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
5:05 pm

I am in negotiations with the AJC, todd. I’m trying to decide how much I should pay them to let me keep doing this.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:05 pm

seems like your detractors are Smoltz, Hewitt, Mora and Petrino.

RS Dawg

January 1st, 2012
5:05 pm

SanDiego, It is certain you won’t be there

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:06 pm

and look, they’re all gone and you’re still standing. Whatta record.

North Campus Trash

January 1st, 2012
5:07 pm

Is it just me or is good CMR waxing just a little too much about next year when he should be focusing on an MSU team with a lot to prove to the SEC.

GFF

January 1st, 2012
5:07 pm

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:08 pm

My new year’s resolutions include not screaming about Bobo’s play calling. My wife says despite the fact i can see him on tv he can’t hear my rages.

RS Dawg

January 1st, 2012
5:09 pm

North Campus, It’s just you!!!

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
5:09 pm

Actually I got along with Petrino. (I was about the only one, I should stipulate.)

NOBODYYOUKNOW

January 1st, 2012
5:09 pm

From the recruiting stories I’ve read they should be heading up up and away for the next few seasons. And I hope they will. Its a tough conference and the Gators, Bama’s LSU tigers, Vols and USC chickens are not gonna sit back and watch. It should be fun to see these great teams battle it out in the upcomming seasons.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:10 pm

CMR’s waxing sounded eerily like Bum Phillips when Houston battled Pittsbugh a couple of years for the AFC Championship.

Said Bum “last year we knocked on the door. this year we’re going to kick the sob in”

we all know it didnt work out that way for Bum.

huffsleeper

January 1st, 2012
5:11 pm

Georgia will go 0-4 against the quality opponents it faced this year if they lose. He should not be talking about contracts or next year. It is obvious he and the Georgia administration are satisfied with mediocrity.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
5:12 pm

If I recall, the Oilers finally beat Pittsburgh in 1980. But they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Lester Hayes had a fabulous game. (Fabulous year, to be precise.)

JDawg1785

January 1st, 2012
5:13 pm

Well said, Mark. Win this game tomorrow and hit the ground running in 2012. Go Dawgs!

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:13 pm

I always imagined Bum and Wade having the same kind of relationship that Sheriff Buford T. Justice had with Junior.

Vance Duly

January 1st, 2012
5:13 pm

I say to Coach Bobo — call 4 quarters of aggressive, innovative offense, and we WILL win the game by at least 10 points. Don’t crawl into a shell if we get a 10 point lead. Also, if one part of our offense is dominating the Spartans, DON’T stop doing it UNTIL they stop us!!! (The Bobo way is to stop and seek “balance”.)

We’ve not had 4 complete quarters of relentless offense in quite a while…. GO DAWGS!!

Bad Dawg

January 1st, 2012
5:14 pm

Don’t buy into the preseason hype again. Remember 2008. There is no point in speculating about “knocking on the door of greatness” until the season is played, because games are won on the field not on blogs or forums. Mark Richt certainly does have a great oppurtunity but will he seize it? He came up short in 07 and 08. We should all know this time next year whether or not UGA will be a real contender but until then please save dawg nation the embarrassment of claiming UGA preseason national champs again.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:15 pm

Wasn’t Lester the guy that lead the NFL to ban slippery substances from jerseys?

he looked like a walking ad for Crisco.

JB

January 1st, 2012
5:15 pm

To win big ( over 10 games by beating the big boys on your schedule), You gotta play great defense and be able to run the ball on anyone you play. We are half way there. I don’t believe in our Line or RB’s ….Yet.

tony

January 1st, 2012
5:15 pm

Chris Petersen next hc @uga. 1st season wins a nc – keeps top recruits from leaving the state – every team in the country fear the dawgs……..I love that idea.

Vance Duly

January 1st, 2012
5:15 pm

To be a “great” team, one must have a killer instinct that originates with the coaches and includes their playcalling on both sides of the ball….. I’d love to see that happen. GO DAWGS!!

Delbert D.

January 1st, 2012
5:15 pm

Arrogance from Mark Richt? What next?

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
5:16 pm

Other way around. It was Lester who abused the Stickum he slathered on his wrists.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
5:17 pm

It was the Raiders’ offensive linemen who dabbled in slickeration.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
5:18 pm

On another matter … from the media hotel I can see the Buccaneers’ stadium. Hard to believe it was only three months ago that I watched the Falcons lose here.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:18 pm

I remember another little ditty from Bum: “boy, you better smile when you call me Bum”

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:19 pm

ok, i knew Lester overdosed on something or other.

JB

January 1st, 2012
5:19 pm

Dawgs are four years removed from taking the field against a real good top notch team….and beating them. This is a fact.

Bad Dawg

January 1st, 2012
5:19 pm

Also SanDiego Jacket, You really must hate UGA eh? Rooting for Missou against the dawgs lol. Can’t Tech take care of the dawgs on their own or must some of the fans like you live vicariously through the teams that have a chance to beat UGA? Good luck next year and sorry for you guys loss against the Utes, I was rooting for Tech to end their bowl losing streak. You’ll get em next next year.
Go Dawgs!

Paul Johnson

January 1st, 2012
5:20 pm

JB, you don’t consider Tech top notch??

JB

January 1st, 2012
5:20 pm

Falcons having their way with the Bucs as of right now…….
Only one problem. The Buc’s mailed it in weeks ago.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:22 pm

Mark, I think that the best game all year will be when New Orleans and Green Bay vie for the NFC Championship. Do you see anybody in the AFC giving either of them a game in the Super Bowl?

Yellow Fuzz

January 1st, 2012
5:22 pm

I’m down here. Where is

Kral
DawginLex
Dublin Dawg
Mountain Dawg
OneEyeJacked
Coach Smith
JB
AltahammaDawg
Red Dog 77
bubba Dawg
Billy Bob Dawg

etc

JB

January 1st, 2012
5:22 pm

Sorry Paul. but no…………..And speaking of Johnson, that program is a ticking time bomb. They are getting worse and worse under Johnson. The ” he won with Gaily’s players” rings truer than ever.

todd grantham

January 1st, 2012
5:23 pm

slickeration, good one. slickery; slickanery; slarceny; slurglary. all good.

virginia dog

January 1st, 2012
5:24 pm

Aaron Murray has to improve. Against top programs Aaron Murray is a turnover machine… UGA will not get to the next level with him at QB as is. If you don’t believe me look at the stats. And don’t throw that garbage about his yards passing and touchdowns.
I don’t care how many yards he has against Coastal Carolina. I care about the turn overs vs, South Carolina.