Missouri does not enter the SEC shyly. Quite the opposite, based on comments by one player.
According to an article in the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune on Sunday, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was asked after the Tigers’ 62-10 victory over Southeastern Lousiana Saturday night if he watched the Georgia-Buffalo game on television earlier in the day.
“I watched the game. I turned it off, too,” Richardson was quoted as saying. “… It’s like watching Big Ten football. It’s old-man football.”
Then this: “If we execute, nobody in this league [the SEC] can touch us. Period.”
Missouri, which officially became an SEC member on July 1, opens play in its new league by hosting Georgia at 7:45 p.m. Saturday in sold-out Memorial Stadium.
Georgia coach Mark Richt laughed when informed, on his weekly teleconference with reporters Sunday evening, of Richardson’s comment.
“’Old-man football?’ Well, I don’t know what he meant by that,” Richt said. “But bottom line is, we got to get after it and do what we do well, and they’ll be trying to stop everything we’re trying to get accomplished.”
The game provides multiple challenges for Georgia, not the least of which will be the emotion associated with Missouri’s much-anticipated SEC debut.
“It’s a huge game for them, no doubt,” Richt said. “It’s a huge game for us, too, though, because we’ve got our goals. And they’ve got their goals. Shoot, to me, it’s the biggest game of the year, no doubt. … It’s a monster game.”
Being the visiting team for Missouri’s SEC opener “is not the best draw,” Richt added. “But it is what it is.”
Aside from the sure-to-be-charged atmosphere, another major issue Georgia will face: Missouri’s spread offense, led by dual-threat quarterback James Franklin, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior who last season passed for 2,865 yards, ran for 981 yards and accounted for 36 touchdowns (21 passing and 15 rushing).
“It’s a problem,” Richt said of defending Franklin. “A quarterback who can run well is a problem. … And they’re going to spread you out. They’re going to get you in a lot of four- and five-wide looks. … It’s a space game, and space is the enemy of the defenses.”
Franklin had surgery on his shoulder in the off-season but reportedly did not have any problems with it in the opener against Southeastern Louisiana, an FCS team. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 131 yards and ran six times for 39 yards.
Comparing Missouri’s opener with Georgia’s performance in its 45-23 victory over Buffalo, “it looked like [on film] Missouri’s boys played harder than our boys played,” Richt said. But he added that the Bulldogs “probably played as hard we could” considering the heat and humidity in Athens.
As of Sunday’s teleconference, Richt said he had received no updates on the status of any of his team’s injured players. … Richt on Connor Norman, a former walk-on who started at safety against Buffalo: “Overall, Connor did a good job. I can think of one play where he missed a tackle out there in space, but just about every safety in America is going to miss a tackle here and there when you’ve got too much space with a back.” Richt said Corey Moore “continues to push hard for playing time [at safety], but right now we think Connor is more ready to play.” … As expected, Richt stayed mum on the status for the Missouri game of suspended players Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree. “We’ll know when the time comes,” he said. . . . Despite Ken Malcome’s hand injury and Todd Gurley’s huge opening game, Richt wasn’t ready to publicly commit to the freshman Gurley as Georgia’s primary running back for this week. “Well, he’ll definitely get the ball, that’s for sure,” Richt said.
– Tim Tucker, AJC
THE AJC’s COMPLETE COVERAGE OF GEORGIA’S SEASON OPENER: