Dogs overcome special-teams woes against Vols

ATHENS -- Several days before the Georgia-Tennessee game, Mark Richt was fretting his team’s special-teams shortcomings. The UGA coach expressed alarm that, if not cleaned up soon, they could cost the Bulldogs a game.

They didn’t cost a game Saturday — Georgia had too much firepower for that — but they certainly caused a lot more concern.

Special-teams miscues figured prominently in a second-quarter meltdown that stunned the Sanford Stadium crowd, turned a 27-10 Georgia lead into a 30-30 halftime tie and set up a wild second half that ended with the Bulldogs a 51-44 winner.

“It was a little bit of a comedy of errors,” Richt said of Saturday’s special-teams breakdowns, which included two missed extra-point attempts and continued difficulty in fielding kicks.

Malcolm Mitchell made the wrong decision on whether to field a punt with about 11 minutes left in the second quarter, electing to let it roll and allowing Tennessee to down it at the Georgia 1. Four plays later, the Bulldogs had to punt from the lousy field position, giving Tennessee the ball at midfield. The Vols turned that into a touchdown that cut Georgia’s lead to 27-17.

Later in the quarter — after an Aaron Murray fumble set up an 8-yard Tennessee touchdown drive that cut Georgia’s lead to 27-23 — Todd Gurley stepped out of bounds with a kickoff at his 1-yard line, again creating field-position disaster for the Dogs. Four plays later, a Keith Marshall fumble at the 18 set up another short Tennessee scoring drive that gave the Vols a short-lived 30-27 lead.

“We made mistakes, but it takes a good team to come back and finish strong,” Gurley said. “We took the win back.”

Richt made a change in response to the kick-fielding woes: Former walk-on Rhett McGowan replaced Mitchell as the punt returner in the third quarter.

“Right now, as far as I’m concerned, Rhett’s the guy,” Richt said. “I need him to make a good decision. I don’t even care if he returns the ball.”

The first of Marshall Morgan’s two missed extra points Saturday hit the upright — his fourth this season to hit the goal post and the first of those not to go through — while the other was blocked. In another kicking miscue, Jamie Lindley booted a kickoff out of bounds, giving Tennessee the ball at the 35.

But there also were some important special-teams successes for Georgia. Morgan’s 50-yard filed goal at the end of the first half restored some momentum and pulled the Dogs even at 30-30. A blocked punt by Marc Deas at the Tennessee 47 in the third quarter led to a Georgia touchdown.

“I’m glad I made that 50,” Morgan said. “If I had missed that, it would have been bad. … I’m happy with my field goals right now. I’ve just got to work on the short ones.”

– Staff writer Chip Towers contributed to this article.


46 comments Add your comment

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TN Dawg

September 29th, 2012
9:43 pm

CMR, the BullDawg alumni will donate the money to hire a special teams coach. Please get a coach.


September 29th, 2012
9:49 pm

If they hire a special teams coach, they have to take away an assistant coach from somewhere else. The NCAA only allows 8 assistant coaches total.

Herschel Walker's Jock Strap

September 29th, 2012
9:55 pm

Malcolm Mitchell should shoulder the blame for all the 2nd qtr slide. I guess he thinks he is Deion Sanders or something. The dude can’t make a good decision when trying to field punts. Richt needs to find a smart, reliable punt returner. With this offense we don’t someone to return it for a touchdown every time they touch it. Secondly, the coaches need to find him a spot on either side of the ball and stick with it! I think he is a better DB. He is definitely better than Branden Smith. They picked on Branden Smith all night. Every time I saw a Justin Huntrr or Cordaralle Patterson match-up with Branden Smith I screamed at the TV. He is Bryan Evans with a little more speed.

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Tom, Tom The Atom Bomb

September 29th, 2012
10:16 pm

The Bulldogs are so predictable. I don’t kow if Boo Boo is calling those three runs up the middle cod no gains, then punt, or Richt is the one sending them in. Game after game, they keep giving the ball back to the opposition with all those three and outs. They are th first team I have ever seen try and run the clock out with 7 minutes remaining…


September 29th, 2012
10:24 pm

terrible decision making by ST players put the dawgs in a hole. SC will take advantage of these miscues by putting GA in similar situations so beware. Mitchell still hasn’t learned by his poor judgement fielding punts and returning KO’s. Glad he was replaced. Keep him as receiver where he doesn’t have to make those decisions. Gurly has to do better fielding KO’s. Good to win a close one that should not have been close at all.

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September 29th, 2012
10:48 pm

when we score a TD, lets just take successive false starts until it turns into a 50 yard kick…….no problem!!


September 29th, 2012
10:56 pm

Rambo and Ogletree should be on the field but I do hope Grantham will evaluate the rest and decide who the best are because I think there was a lot of missed assignments tonight. Commings did a good job now that he is back where he belongs.
Richt has got to address our special teams problems. If he has to get rid of a position coach so he can hire another just as good but with special teams coaching experience then so be it. But to just ignore that it isn’t costing us big time is crazy.


September 29th, 2012
10:58 pm

UGA looked horrible. That defense sucks. Akron was tougher than UGA.

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Vance Duly

September 30th, 2012
12:09 am

So far this year, Coach Bobo’s avoided most of his historic bad tendencies. But, we got overly conservative yet again with a lead, running 6 consecutive failed plays (on 2 series) that led to 3rd and long – the play where the Vols blitzed and Murray fumbled. Had we done anything more creative on the first 2 downs, we wouldn’t have been in 3rd and 11. They couldn’t stop our passing game — so, we did – a true Bobo tendency…..

As far as the running game goes, we stopped running the outside run to the left that Marshall scored on. We kept running right and getting stuffed. A couple of 1st down passes in the 4th quarter might have saved us the dramatic finish. But, NO, we don’t know how to put the other team away…….. Fortunately, we made a couple of key defensive plays late, to save us. GO DAWGS!!


September 30th, 2012
12:18 am

@ cancer, I said the same thing with the play calling. Murray was 18-21 at that point and the three missed passes were actually on target but the WR couldn’t catch it. And I know atleast 3-4 of the passes went right in their hands. Wooten late in the game missed a throw that was perfect and possibly would have gone for a TD with how the D was set up. I kept saying they can score, so score 60. Don’t be “nice” and think you are running it up because of you score 60 and win by 2 TD’s its not a blowout that’s for sure. Everyone has complained abt Murray but like I said he was accurate with his throws, the fumble, it happens, but there were no dumb decisions by him that’s for sure.

Bulldawg Bill

September 30th, 2012
1:24 am

Aside from the ST miscues and other turnovers, Bobo went to the well a bit too often on the Bread and Butter pitch off tackle. If the fans figured it out, do ya’ think the other team did too? My kingdom for a lousy first down!!!!!!!!!!


September 30th, 2012
6:21 am

Geez, we scored 51 points. You can complain about Bobo, but the fact is, we scored 51 points. 21 of Tennessee points were scored on miscues by the dogs, short field, pick 6, etc. It wasn’t until the end Tennessee finally started really stopping the pitch play. I would have tossed it as well. It was working. You wouldn’t be complaining it Gurley or Marshall broke it for 60 yards..

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September 30th, 2012
6:40 am

Coach Richt, if you are listening, please get over the “we don’t need a special teams coach” attitude. Obviously we DO NEED a special teams specialist. If you are limited by the number of coaches you can have the hire a special teams “analyst” like Saban does. I don’t think they will mind the different title as long as they are getting paid. And I KNOW that the UGA Athletic Association can afford this. UGA is one of the most profitable programs in all of college football.

I have wondered at times if it is just “pride” that has kept you from addressing this issue. You have said on many occassions that the current staff is capable to handling the special teams issues, however, clearly that has not worked. This has gone on too long. Just as you did with CWM, you need to realize that the time for change has arrived.

Change can be a great thing. The change at defensive coordinator has paid rich dividends as has the changes in the strength and conditioning staff. This will too.



September 30th, 2012
6:51 am

Murray hit Wooten between the numbers on a great call on 3rd down and had he simply caught it they could have easily salted it away. I thought the offense was very good. They scored 51 points. It was the turn overs which hopefully can be corrected. They won a game that they could have lost, they came out in the second have and again dominated on offense. The game that will really tell us how good we are is next week. This game will actually help in preparation.


September 30th, 2012
6:58 am

The Vols deserve a lot of credit, especially their offensive line. Coach Dooley has done a fine job with his team, a lot of new coaches on his staff and players who have stuck with him over the last 2-1/2 years. Their perseverance is now beginning to pay off. I think you’ll see some even better things from the Vols as the season progresses. I look for a good game against Bama! I know that’s saying a lot and I don’t think they will beat Bama but they will play hard! Congratulations to them and especially Coach Dooley who I admire as I do his Dad and Mom!

Let’s not be hard on Coach Grantham! It was the offense that is responsible for 21 points to the Vols. Without that, the score might have been somewhat different. At least, the offense atoned for their errors by continuing to play and get more points. Correct those mistakes and they’ll be fine! I hope they do before they play with the cocks! GO DAWGS…..DGT!!

Red N. Black

September 30th, 2012
8:00 am

Using McGowan as our punt returner will be a plus at this point however to really be competitive in the SEC we need someone who can make good decisions, field the ball securely and be a return threat. What is amazing to me is that we haven’t had that type returner since 2003 when Damien Gary (a Donnan recruit) was back there. Probably 3 dozen or more of the current players handled this job in HS so I’m guessing that we probably have someone we can use if we just find him. So I believe we need to re-open competetion in practice this week. As for the embarrasingly poor extra point kicking I believe we need to try what Boston College did a few years back. Hold on campus try-outs. Wait before you laugh. A quick search finds that UGA has 11077 male students. I’m sure in that number several were the kickers in HS. Some were more than likely very accurate. Maybe they just didn’t have a strong enough leg to get a scholarship. All we need is one who can kick an extra point and maybe short FG’s. Morgan can continue to kick the long range FG’s. This worked out great for Boston College and what do we have to lose. We already are pitiful so it can’t really get any worse.

Vampire Bill

September 30th, 2012
8:34 am

Murray had a great game. That pic6 was deflected. His passing has greatly improved. DGD

Long-time Dawg

September 30th, 2012
9:15 am

Why in the hell won’t CMR add a Special Teams coach? Their performance(other than the blocked punt)was atrocious.

Uncle Kirk

September 30th, 2012
10:03 am

They were running the same plays that we’re successful all game. If 31 cathes the pass that hit him in the hands it was a touchdown and the game is over. Some of you just bitch to bitch. I guess this is a woman blog now.


September 30th, 2012
10:11 am

OK guys, I’m taking over as “Special Teams” coach…..and not charging a cent. First I need to tell you I played football in the 8th grade which may make me over qualified for this job!!!
Here’s the plan next week:
On extra points just rip them like your 50+ yard field goals that go straight down the middle, simple enough….rip em!!!! Quit pitty-patting and kick the snot out of that pigskin!!!!
On punt returns: plant your feet on the 10 yard line and face the punter. If the ball is in front of you call a fair catch. If the ball is going over your head, call a “fair catch” and run up a little bit waving your arms, but don’t catch it…..let it roll into the end zone. I call this a bluff….kinda like in poker. And my last rule on punt returns is to not try to catch the punt and run with it if there are 11 angry opponents
barreling-down and all are within 5 feet of you. We only allow this if your name has the word “Scott” in it… Jake Scott or Scott Woerner. You young guys may need to ask an old UGa fan to
explain these names to you!!! All kidding asside……it is that simple so quit playing stupid!!!


September 30th, 2012
10:44 am

Oh yea, Lindsey Scott was great too, but I don’t remember him fielding punts.


September 30th, 2012
10:47 am

“run Lindsey run”……wow, I miss Larry M.!!!


September 30th, 2012
10:55 am

You are right on the mark. The Offense and the Special Teams put 21 and possibly 28 points on the board for UT.

Eliminate the O and S mistakes and you have Georgia blowing out UT.

The coaching staff better get serious about coaching the S.

The O better get serious about blocking to prevent fumbles and interceptionsl.

If they do these tweaks, they can go 14-0 this year.

If they don’t, it will be a good year but not a great year.

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September 30th, 2012
12:17 pm

Why isnt Chris Conley playing more? When is C. Washington going to become more of a pass rush threat opposite of J.J.? I hope the coaches focus more on red zone defense and permantely leave mitchell off punt return duty. Considering what happen in 04 and 07 this was a great win for a Georgia program thats trying to get to the next level, with improve ST play and MORE OF A DOMINATE ATTITUDE these Dawgs can be special, SC will be a another test this team has to pass in order to be great, we all know the true test will come from FLA like it or not we havent beaten them twice since 88, 89 The coaches cant get conservative going into this game against carolina. This will be the best front four that the o-line will have faced to date. Theus aganist Quarles is going to be a true test for this freshman as well as Cloney vs Gates this where the game will be won. GATA GO DAWGS!!!!


September 30th, 2012
12:26 pm

We could get a player from the girls’ soccer team to kick extra points.


September 30th, 2012
1:39 pm

The lack of a pass rush by anyone other than Jarvis Jones has been obvious all season. Yes this was a good OL they were up against but the pass rush has been weak in every game. They have also been porous against the run. Special teams coverage has definitely improved but some one needs to step up and be consistent on punt and kickoff returns. What about trying Scott- Wesley – he can fly. Extra points ? I can’t explain that – mental I guess.

oakwood dawg

September 30th, 2012
1:52 pm

LAST NIGHT Just don’t tell me how great our defense is. It looked pretty bad last night. Vols basically have no running game but they did last night. If we play against the gamecocks like we did last night we will easily get beaten.

Dawg Tired

September 30th, 2012
2:16 pm

Leroy @ 9:49 yesterday: If 8 assistant coaches is the limit, we are already in violation. Might as well go ahead and hire another one above that number you made up.

Dawg Tired

September 30th, 2012
2:26 pm

bubba – Yes, the offense turned the ball over at the 8 and 18 on fumbles. Not good. BUT it was not in the end zone! D has to get a stop and force a field goal! We basically did nothing to prevent the TDs. A good defense should play harder than we did after those turnovers. Actually with the field being compressed we should be able to cover receivers better that close to the goal line. Go man and pressure the QB and rely on d-line to stop run up the middle. It was like we were not even on the field.


September 30th, 2012
4:55 pm

In response to bubba4dawgs

“The Vols deserve a lot of credit, especially their offensive line. Coach Dooley has done a fine job with his team, a lot of new coaches on his staff and players who have stuck with him over the last 2-1/2 years. Their perseverance is now beginning to pay off. I think you’ll see some even better things from the Vols as the season progresses. I look for a good game against Bama! I know that’s saying a lot and I don’t think they will beat Bama but they will play hard! Congratulations to them and especially Coach Dooley who I admire as I do his Dad and Mom!”

Have been a Vol fan for life and always want to beat Georgia. I have been watching this site the past week, and from the above post I can tell you that I am impressed with the attitude of many of the Bull Dog fans. They pay compliments where compliments are due. Georgia played a good game and deserved their win in the end. Beat the Gators and Dark Visor’s chickens.


September 30th, 2012
6:17 pm

Congrats UGA fans on the win. It was close, but you did it.

Now, I think the UGA fans need to stop talking about turnover. UT had 4 to UGA’s 3….with the Bray fumble in UGA territory late in the 4th quarter trying to tie the game…that’s about as costly as it gets. If you think back and take away UGA’s fumbles, then you would have to allow TN to take theirs away as well.

Bottom line is that it was a good exciting and close game. Don’t cheapen it by talking about the “what ifs”


September 30th, 2012
6:33 pm

Yeah but teams are going to take advantage of these issues for sure and the UGA defense is nowhere near as good as folks thought coming into the season! The curse of Blair Walsh seems to still be affecting the current kickers and that can never be good in close games, which UGA will surely find themselves in this season. South Carolina will easily take advantage of removing Jarvis Jones from the equation just like Dooley’s team did!! There will be no undefeated season from this group and that means no national championship, unfortunately. That’s why Richt, you MUST have great players at EVERY position not just half of them!!

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Dawg Walker

October 1st, 2012
7:05 am

Agree with “Red and Black”. There are other kickers on team already with good accuracy but not given chance to demonstrate – not even in camp. We use more than one reciever, more than one running back, and switch other spots. This is a team effort. Continue to use Marshall Morgan but give some of the others at least a chance. I followed one in high school that never missed in HS career. Go DAWGS.