Archive for September, 2009

Why Idaho State?

Georgia’s 2009 football schedule is an aberration, what with three  non-conference games against opponents from BCS leagues: Oklahoma State, Arizona State and Georgia Tech. Georgia’s norm will be two such opponents: Tech and one other.

Next year’s schedule will be the norm.

That schedule was finalized Tuesday, with word that Idaho State will -– for a tidy fee of $525,000 —  travel 2,000 miles from Pocatello to Athens  to play the Bulldogs on Nov. 6, 2010. The Bengals  join Louisiana Lafayette,  Colorado and, of course, Georgia Tech on the Dogs’ 2010 non-conference schedule.

So that adds up to two BCS opponents (Colorado and Tech),  one  lower-tier  Division I-A opponent (Louisiana Lafayette) and one I-AA opponent (Idaho State). And that’s essentially the schedule model Georgia wants.

(Yes, I know the NCAA no longer uses the I-A and I-AA designations. But it’s still clearer than the current designations of FBS and FCS, right?)

Oklahoma State and Arizona State wound up …

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Emptying the notebook . . .

Duly noted:

Marlon Brown was the more hyped of the two receivers Georgia signed in February, but Rantavious Wooten became the first to catch a pass as a Bulldog.  He caught two, in fact, against Arizona State on Saturday. The first was a spectacular 27-yard gainer on 3rd-and-12  in the second quarter.  The second was a crucial 11-yard gainer on 3rd-and-4 early in the drive that led to the game-winning, game-ending field goal. Brown again didn’t play, but teammates and coaches continue to say he’s making progress in practice, doing fine and will be contributing soon.

– If the Dogs are going to play a bunch of close games this season –- and obviously they are — then it’s a good thing to have a confident placekicker. And Blair Walsh is surely that, riding an 8-for-8 streak on field goals after the dramatic 37-yarder that beat Arizona State as time expired. Defining “game-winning” kicks as those that break a tie or bring the Dogs from behind in the final two minutes of a …

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Interesting ideas for Stegeman Coliseum, Sanford Stadium

Athens — Interesting meeting of the UGA Athletic Association board of directors on Wednesday.

The big news was the board’s approval of a recommendation by AD Damon Evans to keep the Georgia-Florida football  game in Jacksonville through 2016.  Basically, the decision not to mess with the game’s 75-year tradition  came down to the fact that there wasn’t a clear, compelling, irrefutable reason to move it out of Jacksonville.  Or, as UGA President Michael Adams put it: “I think there would have to be overwhelming reasons and overwhelming sentiment to change.”  And there weren’t.  The reason cited by some -– Georgia’s 3-16 record in the past 19 meetings with the Gators –- was rejected by Evans and, ultimately, the board.  “I’m not a believer we are losing the game because we are playing down in Jacksonville, Fla.,”  Evans  told the board.   “I truly believe our team can beat anybody anywhere.”  Evans added later that he has studied the records of the series. “The …

Continue reading Interesting ideas for Stegeman Coliseum, Sanford Stadium »

Youth movement on defense? And the team as a train?

Hope you saw my stories posted Tuesday on Joe Cox’s crazy month, Richard Samuel’s fumbles putting his starting job in jeopardy and the UGA Athletic Board planning to take up the issue of Georgia-Florida at a meeting on Wednesday.

A few more things at this late hour from a busy day in Athens:

– Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said after practice Tuesday that some of his younger players could get  increased playing time in the secondary. “We’re going to get some other guys some more opportunities,” Martinez said. “We’ve got some young players we’re trying to get in there.”  He specifically mentioned redshirt freshmen safeties Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings.  Martinez said some of Commings’  playing time might come at cornerback. Martinez also did not rule out increased time for true freshman cornerback Branden Smith, although he was notably burned on a long touchdown pass by Arkansas last week. “It’s not something you want to see, what happened to him in the game …

Continue reading Youth movement on defense? And the team as a train? »

Playmakers and punter step forward

Here, if you missed it, is today’s notebook with items on the national acclaim that is deservedly finding Joe Cox, the blizzard of points Georgia is giving up and Caleb King’s much-delayed debut.

Now, a few more things of note from Mark Richt’s teleconference Sunday:

– Not that he advocates falling behind by double digits in the first quarter every game, but since it  happened in each of the past two games and Georgia won both, Richt sees a benefit.

“I think the guys are beginning to believe that we are not out of any game at any time,” he said. “The more you get put into the fire, the more it refines you.  I think it makes you stronger,  makes you a little bit tougher mentally. And I think you do gain confidence that when you get into these battle royales, we can be left standing at the end in victory.  We’ve just got to keep that going, and we’ve just got to stop the self-inflicted wounds. If we can do that, we are going to improve tremendously.”

– The past two games …

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Tested team vs. rested team

Athens –You can argue that one team in Saturday’s game -– Georgia -– is tested and toughened by having played two bona fide opponents already this season.

That’s the argument Arkansas coach  Bobby Petrino made on an SEC teleconference Wednesday, contending that Georgia’s  “fast, physical” games against Oklahoma State and South Carolina give the Bulldogs an advantage against his Razorbacks  on Saturday.

“The advantage  Georgia has is that they’ve been in two big games and played against two very good opponents,” Petrino said.

On the other hand, you can argue that the other team in Saturday’s game –-Arkansas -– benefits from having  been able to focus disproportionately on this game because it started the season against uncompetitive Missouri State and then had an open date.

That’s the argument Georgia’s Mark Richt has made more than once this week,  noting that the Razorbacks’ schedule has allowed them to max out on  preparations for the Dogs.

“They have had …

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Where’s Marlon Brown? And other stuff.

Athens –  A few things I thought you might find of interest from Tuesday that didn’t make it into my stories:

–   Surprisingly, Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten –- the touted freshmen receivers –- have been non-factors in the first two games.  They didn’t get into Game 1 and barely got into Game 2.  Quarterback Joe Cox offered an explanation   for why they haven’t been part of the receiving rotation yet:

“I definitely think they can help us, but we want to make sure they know what to do,” Cox said.  “It gets crazy trying to hear my call in the huddle, and then we start moving tight ends and doing certain motions with them. We just want to make sure they have it down. They definitely have the ability, but you don’t want to have them come in and miss something important because they weren’t sure. . . . You can tell they are learning every week, and they’re anxious to play . . . and that’s good.  I can’t wait for them to get in there and help us out because I know …

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On turnover margin and penalties

It’s too early, probably, but I checked out the NCAA stats on Monday. Two things jumped out:

– 1. Among major-college teams that have played two games, Georgia ranks next-to-last in turnover margin.

The Bulldogs are minus-5, meaning they have lost five more turnovers than they have gained (6-1), and only one team has a worse turnover margin through two games, Virginia at minus-6.

Georgia lost the turnover battle 3-0 against Oklahoma State  -– and lost the game 24-10. Georgia lost the turnover battle 3-1 against South Carolina –- but won the game 41-37. The six Georgia turnovers in the two games have led to 26 opposition points,  or 23 more points than the Dogs have gotten off their opponents’ lone turnover.

– 2. Georgia is back in familiar territory in penalty stats, which is to say near the bottom. The Dogs currently rank 108th among the 120 major-college teams in yards penalized per game.

Through two games, Georgia has been penalized an average of 83 yards per game — …

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The two biggest plays of the game?

Athens — So much stuff happened on Saturday: a 100-yard kickoff return, a 61-yard touchdown on a reverse, a safety on a punt snap that went out of the back of the end zone.  As Mark Richt said immediately afterward, probably 100 good things and 100 bad things.

I asked Joe Cox on Sunday what, of all the things that happened,  he considered the biggest play of Georgia’s 41-37 victory over South Carolina.

“I’d probably say there were two,” Cox  answered. “The blocked extra point, which didn’t seem huge at the time.  And then Carlton [Thomas] diving on the fumble.”

The blocked extra point –- by DeAngelo Tyson –- came after a South Carolina touchdown (on Eric Norwood’s 35-yard interception return) cut the Georgia lead to 38-37 with 12:56 to play.

And the Thomas fumble recovery came a few minutes later when Cox coughed up the ball upon being hit from behind by South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore.  By retrieving it, Thomas prevented a turnover – and kept the Bullogs in …

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Who’ll play, and who won’t

AthensJoe Cox will play, and Caleb King probably won’t.  Darius Dewberry won’t play, and Kiante Tripp might.

Details on the Cox situation are here and here.

As for the others:

– King: After saying at the start of the week that King -– limited since Aug. 12 because of a pulled hamstring —  would play against South Carolina on Saturday, Mark Richt said yesterday that King is, at best, doubtful. “The last couple of days [Tuesday-Wednesday], he wasn’t able to go through the whole practice,” Richt said.  “So I would say, if you had to gauge it, it’d be doubtful that he would play.” Sounds like a heavy load for Richard Samuel again this week.

– Dewberry: Last week’s starter at strongside linebacker “pulled a [groin] muscle again and will not participate in the game,” Richt said.  Akeem Dent is expected to replace him as the starter.

– Tripp: The backup defensive end, who missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, has been back at practice this week.  “Will he be able …

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A new job for Pete Herrmann

Athens — If you’re looking for football info,  please check out my stories today on the issues facing Georgia’s offense, Makiri Pugh’s return from swine flu and the Dogs’ drop in the polls.

Meanwhile, I wanted to call your attention to something different here:

Young Harris College, located in the mountains of north Georgia, hired itself a very good basketball coach on Tuesday.

Pete Herrmann, who did a classy job while filling in as interim head coach at UGA  for the final 12 games of last season, was hired  by Young Harris to revive its men’s basketball program, which was discontinued 40 years ago.

Herrmann  begins his new job immediately, and his new team — the Mountain Lions — will begin play in the 2010-11 season.

As you might imagine, Herrmann, who kept his sense of humor even during Georgia’s bleak 2008-09 season, got a chuckle out of becoming Young Harris’ first men’s hoops coach in four decades.

“I was just starting my career in basketball when Young Harris was …

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On Sturdivant’s injury, among other things

The bad news kept coming for the Bulldogs on Sunday.

It’s been a rough few days, starting with Joe Cox getting sick and continuing with a messy loss to Oklahoma State and culminating with word that Trinton Sturdivant will miss another season with a torn ACL.

You really gotta feel bad for Trinton.  He worked so hard for so long in rehab to make it back from last year’s knee injury, only to be faced with doing it all over again after playing less than three quarters of one game.

Mark Richt predicted Sturdivant will be just as diligent in his rehab this time and be back playing in 2010.

Meanwhile, the 2009 Dogs are 0-1. It’s the first time Georgia has been 0-1 since 1996,  when Jim Donnan’s first season as UGA coach started with an 11-7 loss to Southern Miss in Athens.

And if you’re wondering when was the last time the Dogs were 0-2, well, the answer is the same: 1996.

The loss to Southern Miss was followed by a 23-14 loss on the road to  . . . South Carolina.

The Gamecocks …

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Glad you asked: the Bulldogs, position-by-position

Hello from Oklahoma. Long day of traveling.

I got an e-mail earlier today asking why the AJC hasn’t done a position-by-position breakdown of the Bulldogs going into the season.  Actually, we did. It ran in  the newspaper in last Sunday’s college football preview section.  But I’m glad you asked, and I thought it’d be appropriate to post it here on the night before the opener. . . .

QUARTERBACKS

Scouting report: Joe Cox has won the past 32 games he has started at quarterback. Problem is, only one of them has been in the past four years. Cox went 31-0 as the starter at Independence High School in Charlotte and won the only game he has started for Georgia (at Ole Miss in 2006).  The fifth-year senior, who will graduate in December, gets one season as UGA’s starter before moving on to a planned coaching career. He doesn’t have Matthew Stafford’s big arm — or big bank account — but Georgia expects him to complete a high percentage of his passes and to provide steady …

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The great handshake debate

Athens –  You never know what the hot topic will be three days before a big football game, do you? At Georgia’s post-practice media session Wednesday night, handshakes were the most popular  conversation piece — specifically, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s concern that pregame handshakes among the teams Saturday could lead to brawl.

Gundy’s reservations drew varying reactions from Georgia players. Joe Cox said he could see the potential for something bad to happen. Rennie Curran said there was nothing to worry about. See their comments here.

In any case, Oklahoma State  has decided to forgo the pregame handshakes requested as a sportsmanship gesture by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) at all season-opening games this weekend.  Oklahoma State’s decision was made “after much deliberation among our coaching staff,”  OSU associate athletics director Kevin Klintworth said in an e-mail.

Gundy earlier this week expressed doubts about the AFCA’s handshake …

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A.J. Green says he’s smarter, healthier and better

AthensA.J. Green remembers what it was like a year ago at this time: “just going out there and playing, not really knowing the plays, not able to read defenses and stuff like that.”

You’d never have known it from his stats, but Green says what you saw last year was not the full A.J. because his knowledge of the system was limited and his groin was bothering him all year.

He says he’s “smarter” and “healthier” now.

“I know the plays and know the system also,” he said. “I’m pretty comfortable.”

And: “It will be good to go out there without my groin hurting me in the middle of the game.”

All in all, Green  thinks the improved knowledge and health, plus a year’s experience, have made him “much better” than a year ago. And remember, he led the SEC in receiving yards as a freshman a year ago.

Other things will be different for Green this season, too, of course. He won’t have Mohamed Massaquoi as a fellow receiver, for one thing. And he’ll be catching passes from a different …

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On Jon Richt’s debut, Richard Samuel’s speed and Logan Gray’s role

AthensJon Richt’s proud parents were on hand when he threw two touchdown passes to help lead Mars Hill to a 28-0 victory at North Greenville on Saturday.

“When Jon threw his first touchdown pass, it was pretty emotional for me and Katharyn,” Mark Richt said Monday.   “And his grandparents were there, his aunts and uncles, his high school coach. There were a lot of people there who got to enjoy the moment. It was nice.”

Mark Richt also enjoyed the atmosphere of small-college football.

“What was kind of neat,” he said, “was that after the game both teams shook hands, said a prayer, then just hung out. And all the fans and families and parents came down on the field. Everybody is down there hugging and taking pictures.

“And I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t imagine this happening.’  [At Georgia] we’re, like, ‘Get off the field as soon as you can,’ you know. It was fun; it was really fun. I enjoyed it a lot.”

————–

Bulldog Nation might not fully realize the speed of  its new No. 1 …

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