ATHENS – Georgia built a reputation for winning on the road in Mark Richt’s first eight seasons as coach, posting a 30-4 record in opponents’ stadiums from 2001 through 2008. Some of the shine came off that record with losses at Oklahoma State in 2009 and at Colorado, among other places, in 2010.
Georgia opens its 2012 SEC schedule Saturday night with a big road test at Missouri, where the Tigers have won 35 of their past 41 home games and the fans figure to be in a frenzy for the school’s first-ever SEC game.
“I know all the fans are going to hate us coming in there, so we’re just going to have to keep our composure and play the best we can,” Georgia split end Michael Bennett said.
“I feel like we’ll definitely feed off the negative energy their fans are giving to us,” Bennett added. “ All that booing and stuff, all that hate, it’s going to be great. I mean, I love that stuff.”
After an 8-6 record in opponents’ stadiums the past three years (3-2 in 2009, 1-4 in 2010 and 4-0 last season), Georgia is 38-10 in true road games in 11 seasons under Richt. That doesn’t include a 12-15 record under Richt in neutral-site games (such as Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville, bowls and SEC Championship games). Including neutral sites, Georgia is 10-12 away from Athens in the past three seasons (5-3 last season).
Saturday’s game will be Georgia’s first ever at Missouri. The teams’ only previous meeting came in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 1959 season, a 14-0 Georgia victory.
“I like going to [new] places,” Georgia flanker Tavarres King said. “I always snap a few pictures of everywhere we go just for the memories.”
‘Rush lanes’ key vs. Franklin
After allowing Buffalo quarterback Alex Zordich to run for 83 yards in the season opener, Georgia’s defense will be challenged by Missouri’s James Franklin, one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks.
“Zordich last week drops back in the pocket and doesn’t find anybody open … but we don’t do a good job in our rush lanes and there’s a place for him to escape up in the pocket and run 15-20 yards,” Richt said. “If we’re going to allow a guy like Franklin to do that, we’re going to have a long, long day. We’ve got to be more disciplined in our rush lanes.”
Playing in the offense-centric Big 12 last season, Missouri ranked No. 12 in the nation in total offense (475 yards per game) and No. 9 in rushing (244 yards per game).
‘Old man football’ fallout
Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson’s comments about Georgia playing “old man football” reached all corners of Bulldog Nation.
“My mom called me,” Richt said. “She wanted to know what I thought about it, too.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Richardson’s comments were “wrong and irresponsible” and added, “We don’t do that here at Missouri.”
1-0 in SEC ‘would be sweet’
Saturday’s game will mark the first time in two decades that Georgia opens its SEC schedule against anyone other than South Carolina, which assumed a spot at the front of UGA’s league schedule upon joining the conference in 1992. Georgia went 13-7 in its SEC openers vs. South Carolina but lost to the Gamecocks the past two seasons to start 0-1 in the league.
“Going 1-0 in the SEC would be sweet,” said Aaron Murray, in his third season as Georgia’s starting quarterback. “I’ve yet to experience that sweetness.”
O-line seeks improvement
Center David Andrews thought Georgia’s offensive line played “pretty well” in the season opener but not well enough.
“There are a lot of areas for improvement,” Andrews said. “We started back [Monday] working on them. I don’t think anyone needs to jump to conclusions after our first game, but I’m excited for this week and seeing what we’re ready to do.”
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