ATHENS – Georgia’s football team is looking scruffier these days. And that’s a good thing, coach Mark Richt explained Tuesday.
Richt, who normally forbids beards on the team, made a deal with his players: When the Bulldogs win the turnover battle in a game, shaving is optional the following week.
And after winning the turnover battle the past two weeks, 3-0 against Tennessee and 2-0 against Vanderbilt, beards are sprouting all around the locker room.
“I hope they are the nastiest looking bunch in America by the end of the year,” Richt said.
Richt actually made the same offer to his team last year, but no one noticed because the Bulldogs lost the turnover battle for the season by a whopping 28-12 margin, ranking 118th out of 120 major-college teams.
“Unfortunately, we were clean-shaven all year,” Richt said. “This year, they’re getting a little furrier.”
All that fur will have to be shaved after any game in which the Bulldogs are on the losing end of the turnover margin, Richt said. And what if the team breaks even in turnovers in a given game? In that case, Richt said, the beards can stay if the team is ahead for the year in turnover margin. Georgia has an 11-7 advantage in turnovers so far this season, thanks to the 5-0 edge the past two weeks.
“It’s just something we’re doing for a little motivation,” said scruffy-chinned linebacker Akeem Dent.
Fullback Fred Munzenmaier and tight end Artie Lynch appear to have the fastest-growing beards on the team, according to several players.
Turns out, though, Richt’s rule isn’t always the final word on the subject.
“I got a little fuzzy last week,” quarterback Aaron Murray said, “but my mom got mad at me so I had to clean it up before the game. She likes it clean-cut. I’ve got to make Mommy happy because my birthday is coming up and I want some good gifts.”
Besides, Murray admitted, he can grow a beard only in patches. “I’m still a teenager,” said the redshirt freshman quarterback, who will turn 20 on Nov. 10.
Senior wide receiver Kris Durham is among the players growing a beard, which he calls “icing on the cake” compared to the larger benefit of winning the turnover battle: “It is going to help us win games.”
Turnovers have been a serious problem for Georgia in the past couple of seasons. Critical fumbles figured largely in losses to South Carolina, Mississippi State and Colorado this season. And the problem was at its worst in the second half of last season’s loss to Kentucky, when the Bulldogs committed four turnovers to blow a 20-6 halftime lead and lose 34-27. Georgia plays at Kentucky on Saturday, hoping to win the turnover battle this time and keep the beards growing.